Down the chute: ‘Fun and frivolity’ at toboggan competition
CAMDEN, Maine (AP) While world-class Olympic athletes compete in South Korea, teams with names like the ”Trophy Husbands,” ”Frozen Boogers” and ”Nothing to Luge” are holding their own winter competition in Maine to see who’s fastest down an old-fashioned toboggan chute.
The two-day National Toboggan Championships got underway Saturday with more than 350 teams competing on the Camden Snow Bowl’s 400-foot-long chute, which was built in the 1930s. The event gives adults a chance to go back in time by riding wooden toboggans, like the one used by Calvin and Hobbes in the comic strip.
”All of us grew up sledding and playing in the snow, and this is an opportunity to go out and play in the snow and sled as an adult,” said Holly Edwards, chairwoman of the annual race’s organizing committee. ”It’s fun and frivolity,” she added.
Participants are required to use the classic wooden sled without runners. There are divisions for two-, three- and four-member teams. Some racers are just out to have fun, wearing silly costumes, while others are out for bragging rights with speeds reaching 45 mph on the ice-covered chute.
”This is our 27th year. It’s a great cabin fever reliever. Once you start going you can’t stop. Once they drop that chute (to start the race) you can’t stop. That carries on for us every year,” Vince Bemis, of Rockport, Maine, said Saturday.
Bemis, who rides in the front position of a three-man team called the Absolute Zeroes, said the group looks forward to the event each year.
”A couple weeks before we hold our annual wax and wine party, but if we hadn’t won the year before we spell it `whine’,” he said.
Bruce Richards of Searsmont, founder of the Big Kahoonas, said his team makes its own toboggans and uses special waxes to provide a competitive edge.
His team members have several kegs of beer on hand, as well, to ensure things don’t get too serious. ”It’s like Mardi Gras,” he said.
The competition raises money for the Camden Snow Bowl, a nonprofit, municipally owned ski area on the 1,300-foot Ragged Mountain, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The toboggan chute has been rebuilt twice, most recently in 1990.