In July 1978, less than a year after they opened the Alpine Slide, developers Wally Wright and John Prince approached the city about building another ride under Park City (Mountain) Resort’s Payday chairlift.
Think of it as the Alpine Slide on steroids.
Like the slide, it would use gravity for propulsion. But unlike the slide, the 3,000-foot ride would be mostly enclosed, with a 32-foot loop sending riders upside down where the lift passed under the gondola (since removed). And the individual cars would have no brakes. Prince described it as “a pure thrill ride.”
They called it “Down The Tube”.
Fiberglass engineer Kay Ruggles designed the green tube to be assembled in half-pipe sections. Construction moved quickly. In early August 1978, Alpine Slide manager Pokey Richardson said the new ride could be open by Labor Day.
It wasn’t. The opening was delayed by “design problems” and “insurance obstacles,” reporter Nan Chalat (now Nan Noaker) told Park Record readers in July 1979 in a story titled Down The Tube Up In The Air. “The question around town … is, ‘Has Down The Tube, Inc. gone down the tube?’” Chalat wrote.
By then the ride already had been spoofed in the annual April Fools issue of The Newspaper, which later merged with the Park Record. The story told of a honeymooning Michigan couple, Bill and Holly Hox, who had been caught in a rainstorm while hiking at the resort in the summer of 1978. “The couple scurried into a section of the Down The Tube ride then under construction,” the paper reported. “Confined by the storm for several hours … the Hoxes continued their honeymoon in the Tube.”
The following March, the spoof story continued: The first verified Down The Tube baby was born in Kindofazoo, Michigan. A giggling Mrs. Hox supposedly told the paper that, when they were ready to expand the family, they would revisit The Tube. “Asked what precautions she will take once her family has reached sufficient size, Mrs. Hox replied, ‘I guess we’ll have the Tube tied,’” the story read.
Rumors flew around Park City that test riders had emerged from the tube with a variety of mutilations. There was even a story that a test dummy had lost its head. Wally Wright scoffed at those stories. “I think the only one hurt was a guy building it who bumped his head,” he told me in August 1980.
By then two years had passed and the ride still hadn’t carried a paying customer. Wright said they were working on installing braking systems, either on the individual cars or inside the Tube itself. For a story in The Newspaper, I photographed John Lamason testing a bathtub-like wheeled vehicle equipped with makeshift brakes.
After watching him hurtle through a section of the Tube, I asked him how it was.“Pretty scary,” he replied.
For a few more ski seasons, the unfinished Tube lurked under the snow beneath the Payday chairlift, an occasional green hump poking up through the powder, Park City’s own snowy Loch Ness Monster.
Ultimately, the ride turned out to be true to its name. In an interview with the Deseret News in the fall of 1983, John Prince confirmed what Parkites already knew: The project had been just a pipe dream.