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Snow Mountain gets kids’ approval

If you want the snow without going north, here’s your chance

POSTED: January 7, 2009 10:03 p.m.
Tasha Biggers/The Times

John Isaac Fisher of Cleveland throws a snowball at his brother, Isaiah Fisher, in The SnowZone at Snow Mountain.

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You may have seen Stone Mountain, but you've never seen it like this.

Stone Mountain Park's "laser lawn," normally home to summer crowds and Fourth of July celebrations, is wearing a brand new coat of white.

Stone Mountain has been transformed into "Snow Mountain," a winter wonderland of frosty slopes, snow angels and snow tubing.

On Monday, I checked out the new attraction for myself with my sister, Tonya Fisher, and her sons, John Isaac, 9, and Isaiah, 7.

It seemed like the Stone Mountain I grew up visiting, until we approached the laser lawn. The same Stone Mountain loomed over us, but below it was something we in Georgia rarely see: a very, very snowy hill.

The snow is piled up like meringue at the foot of the laser lawn. The billowy banks keep snow tubers from shuttling straight into Stone Mountain Lake.

Or at least it seems like that would be the outcome, if they weren't there.

There are nine lanes in Tube Racers, the snow tubing complex that covers the laser lawn. I managed to tube down four times. This was my first shot at snow tubing, and I was frightened every single time - but in a fun kind of way.

Tubers can ride single or double. The double tubes are a better option for parents with small children, but very little ones - shorter than 42 inches tall - aren't allowed to ride.

You select your tube and then step on the Mountain Snolift, which is basically a conveyor belt that takes you and your tube to the top of the hill.

John Isaac and Isaiah preferred tubing solo, because single tubes can spin around and go faster. Each turn, they tried to find the lane that would make them go the fastest.

How your ride turns out is dependent on the temperature and the person who pushes you down. Each lane has an attendant, and on my third turn I happened to get a guy who likes to spin people.

Fortunately, it turns out that spinning makes the ride more fun. But dipping temperatures make it more scary.

On my fourth ride, it was dark and finally chilly - which seemed much more appropriate than the 70-degree weather we had when we arrived.

The snow had become more like ice, which made my ride much faster and more jumpy. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to cross my lane's border and go flying across the other lanes. It seemed inevitable.

Yet, somehow, I didn't. I careened right into the bank, just like I was supposed to do.

The snow tubing is the main attraction, taking up most of the laser lawn, but there are other activities to keep you busy if you tire of careening down the hill.

The SnowZone has an igloo and snowman-building area, complete with real carrots, wigs and hats for accessorizing your snowman.

Little Angels, an area for children 48 inches and shorter, lets little ones in on the snowy fun, with a much smaller hill that they can sled down and an area for snow angels.

Families can make s'mores or eat lunch while watching the tubers.

If you go, make sure to wear water-resistant clothing and boots. I saw some people wearing rain boots, which I realized was a great idea after my own shearling boots were soaked all the way through.

It's all a little surreal - you expect snow attractions at higher elevations, but it's quite a surprise just east of Atlanta.

I was skeptical about how the folks at Stone Mountain would pull it off, especially in the unusually warm temperatures we've had recently, but the snow stayed piled up all day long.

Snow even flew over our heads, pumped through a snow cannon, while we tubed down the hill.

And, though I had worried about all this snow in the middle of a drought, diagrams in the park explain how the water is drawn from Stone Mountain Lake, treated, converted to snow and returned to the lake.

Tonya and I watched as John Isaac and Isaiah built an igloo and pelted snowballs at the Snowball Shootin' Gallery, and we rode the Mountain Snolift again and again, flying deliriously down the hill.

And after several exclamations of "Awesome!," I think it's safe to say my nephews approve of this new version of Stone Mountain Park, which will remain snowy until March 1.



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