Wednesday, February 9, 2011
The U.S. National Tobaggan Championships is the only organized wooden toboggan race in the country and possibly the world. The toboggan chute is located in Camden, Main at the Camden Snow Bowl, a community owned year round recreation area which has developed thousand of deicated skiers since 1936. All race revenue goes to off setting the Snow Bowl budget.
The original chute was first built in 1936 by a dedicated group of volunteers who also built a ski lodge and ski hill, one of the earliest in America. The chute was again rebuilt in 1954 by local Coast Guardsmen and lasted until 1964 when it was brought to an end because of rot and neglect.
In 1990 it was resurrected once again out of pressure treated wood by another enthusiastic group of volunteers and material donors and was to become known as the Jack Williams Toboggan Chute. The week before the race, many hours are spent during the dark of night, when it is the coldest, to coat the wooden chute with layer upon layer of ice. This is accomplished by a "Rube Goldberg" invention of David Dickeys, which pulleys a tub up the chute slowly dispensing water from holes in its back.
The chute is 400 feet long, and with the 70 foot high hill, toboggans can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. The run out is on to frozen Hosmers' pond. If there is clear ice on the pond, some sleds will go the entire way across the pond ( over 1/4 of a mile).
The Nationals are usually held the first weekend of February, but to avoid conflict with the Super Bowl, the event has been changed to the 2nd weekend in February starting in 2008.
The race toboggan must be of traditional shape, material and design to qualify for the Nationals. The race is like any race, in that the few rules are constantly pushed to the limits by tweaking the toboggan to make it go a tenth of a second faster. Even the "Inspector of Toboggans", from the 2007 race, was found to have violated the slat rule to make his go a little faster.
The most wonderful aspect of the U.S. National Toboggan Race, is that anybody can participate in a national race and anybody can be the National Champion, no matter their age or ability. In 2007 two gentlemen from Tennessee, who had never seen snow before, went on to become the 2nd place champions in the two man division.