A bustling offseason: When the 18-hole golf course at The Links at Greystone is asleep for winter, the new snow-tubing track keeps business rolling in and four additional members of the maintenance crew employed year-round. Photos courtesy of Tim Hahn
Tim Hahn has but one reservation about The Links at Greystone’s new way to stay open year-round.
“I’m not a winter guy,” Hahn, Greystone’s GCSAA Class A superintendent and a 32-year association member, says with a laugh. “I used to joke with people that the only thing I did in winter was shovel snow, and I don’t even like that.”
Hahn still gets to do plenty of shoveling, but now he also gets to help maintain the two-season-old snow-tubing park on Greystone’s driving range in Walworth, N.Y. The club’s owners began looking into ways to keep the 26-year-old facility open in the offseason a few years ago and settled upon the idea of a snow-tube run. Most of the research and legwork took place in 2018, and the driving range was shut down in the summer of 2019 for the physical retooling, which included grading the hill and upgrading infrastructure. The hill opened to tubers in winter 2020.
“I was a little concerned at first,” Hahn says. “It was a big investment on their part, and there are hills everywhere around here. Are people going to come out and pay to go sledding with all these free hills around us?”
The answer was a resounding yes. Hahn says just over 27,000 tubers turned out for the inaugural season, and, despite a warm December that delayed the opening in 2021, Year Two is underway apace.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Hahn says. “We do offer more than a free sledding hill. We have a lift line that pulls you up the hill, music, lights, a full restaurant and a bar. We have a lot more to offer than just going to the high school and sledding there.”
Winter playground: Snow tubing is both a daytime and nighttime pastime at The Links at Greystone.
Though the facility’s driving range already featured a steep drop, it wasn’t well suited for tubing. The Links at Greystone contracted out work that shaped it into a consistent, tube-friendly grading. It also had to create a launching area at the top of the hill, redo some irrigation routing, tweak some drainage, and, eventually, regrass. The owners also purchased two snowcats — groomers — and three snow-makers to supplement the 80 or so inches of snow that Walworth, in the Finger Lakes region outside Rochester, receives each season.
“Nobody on our staff knew anything about making our own snow,” Hahn says. “We just got in contact with people who did know. The people we bought our snow guns from were very helpful. We’re still learning, still getting better at it.”
Editor’s note: As demonstrated at The Links at Greystone, areas on golf courses can be used for a variety of other purposes that benefit people and the environment. Read about more multifunctional golf properties in Golf facilities: An underutilized resource.
The full snow-tube run can stretch over 1,000 feet long and up to 12 lanes wide. Greystone, a public golf facility and public tube hill, requires reservations and limits tubing visits to two hours to keep numbers manageable and wait times short.
“We want people to have enough runs down the hill to see the value in it and have fun. And if we were to overbook, we could run out of tubes,” says Hahn, who notes the club has found 160 to 180 tubes be a “comfortable” maximum. “On a good Saturday, we could do 700 to 800 tubers.”
Snow Tubing at Greystone is open 3 to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $26. There’s also a “kiddie hill” for little folks for $5.
Take a virtual ride down The Links at Greystone’s snow-tubing track:
Outside of those regular hours, the snow-tube run is available for events — group parties, birthday parties and charity events.
“That keeps us pretty busy,” Hahn says. “Our February is booked solid. I think there are three days in February where there’s not something going on here.”
Previously, winters were pretty dull around Greystone. Hahn says golf season usually wraps up around the end of October.
“We might have stragglers into November or December if the weather’s nice enough,” he says. “This season, there was one nice day in December, after we made snow, where we had 120 rounds as well as 110 people tubing.”
Hahn says his grounds department staff used to number three year-round full-timers — himself, an assistant and a mechanic. During the golf season, the staff would swell to 12 or 13.
“Like a lot of people in the Northeast, we used to lay off a lot of people seasonally,” he says. “With the winter work now, there’s enough to do, between snow-making and working on the hill with the patrons, I’ve been allowed to keep on four additional people — seasonal employees who are now full-time employees for us.”
The hill at The Links at Greystone on Dec. 19, 2021 (top), and on Jan. 22, 2022, post-transformation for tubing (bottom).
The offseason had been project time for the golf course maintenance staff. Now, with his assistant and mechanic running the snowcats — “As well as our golf pro/owner. He gets out and runs them a little bit,” Hahn says — and the rest of the staff kept busy with snow-making and tending to tubers ...
“It does cut into project time,” Hahn says. “We used to do a lot of projects when we got snowed in, getting ready for the next season. This eats into that a little bit. We’re still doing snow removal on the property and salting — that’s still a lot of man-hours. And that time on the hill is a big commitment of time.”
Hahn says, much like the game of golf nationally, tubing — at least in his part of the country — received a bit of a pandemic “bump.”
“Actually, it helped us a lot,” he says. “People are so limited. They can’t go out to movies, dinner ... this is an option for them. They can get outside, cover their faces, have a good family activity and have a ball. In that way, the pandemic absolutely was beneficial for us.”
Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.