Dana Ellingson of Eagan turned 9 in June, but she decided to wait half a year to celebrate her birthday.

This month, she held the belated bash at Eagan's Trapp Farm Park Tubing Hill, where she and her friends spent an afternoon flying down the snow-packed slope and later enjoyed pizza and cupcakes.

"You can go really fast," Dana said.

Even on days when temps are nearing 30 degrees and the snow is a little stickier, it's slick and fast. The breathless girls in snow pants took off their hats and unzipped their jackets as they ran up the hill over and over again.

"I lost count," said Raena Erickson, 8, of St. Paul. "It's really great. It's just really fun."

"We make trains with these things," said Eleanor Richards, 9, of St. Paul, prior to the 10 of them tying their tubes together to head down in one big raft.

"When you go down, you almost feel like you're flying," said Sonja Henze of St. Paul.

Neal Kunik, a winter program assistant at the park operated by Eagan Parks & Recreation, agrees, saying, "You can get going pretty fast down the hill, but it's safe with the tubes."

Kunik collects the $3 admission fee by the fireplace in the warming house. When the 21-year-old started going to the hill as a young kid, it was free, he said, and he and his friends would just grab one of the big, black tubes of varying sizes, sometimes piling six people onto one of the bigger ones before sliding down.

Now the tubes are all uniform, heavy-duty tubes with covered bottoms, handles and a leash for pulling them up the hill.

However, rules are still generally pretty lax. Kids try to bump into each other as they go down and they build pyramids of tubes at the bottom of the hill to crash into.

If it gets busy, Kunik said, park staff get strict for safety reasons, but mostly they just let people have fun.

Kunik said the hill sees about 70 to 150 people on weekends, depending on weather.

"We just come because it's a good value and it's close," said Angie Mracek of Rosemount, who brought her two teen sons and some of their friends. "You could come even for a half-hour and feel like you've got your money's worth. I thought they'd be bored, and now I can't seem to get them off the hill."

Alex Zaboj, 15, of Rosemount, was visiting for the first time with Mracek. "I'm definitely coming here more," he said. He appreciated that he didn't have to wait in a long line, he said.

The hill stays open and lit until 8 p.m.

"The night's a lot cooler," said winter program assistant Hunter Sieve of Eagan.

Warmer temperatures last week meant tubers slowed down a bit earlier than usual, some veteran tubers said, instead of flying all the way to the snow berm at the end.

"Our goal used to be to jump over it to get into the pond," said Paul Silgen of Eagan, who had come with his 6-year-old daughter, Audrey.

His favorite part? "I like what they don't -- that it takes effort to get back up," Silgen said.

Although each run down requires a trudge up the hill, a rope handrail can be helpful, especially when it gets slick.

Silgen said that his family tries to get there every year and that they enjoy the option to buy a day pass.

"We don't live far," he said, "so we can go and come back."

Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.