Toboggan Championships offer a swift, snowy thrill ride

BY foxsports • February 1, 2015

Seventy feet up, tobogganing newbies suddenly appreciate the gravity of their situation: They're about to approach 40 mph on something that looks like it belongs on an old fashioned postcard.

Hundreds of teams will fill up the Maine town of Camden next weekend for the 25th U.S. National Toboggan Championships - an event that, despite a name that would seem to indicate it attracts only the most accomplished competitors, sometimes gets people who have never crouched in one of the wooden sleds.

''We get lots of people every year who have never done this before,'' said Holly Edwards, chairwoman of the championships committee. ''And they are scared to death of course.''

Racers use traditional wooden toboggans, with the curling, up-turned front ends, to hurtle down a 400-foot-long wooden chute that was first built in 1936. A ''chutemaster'' releases a lock that tips the toboggan down, the Earth's pull takes over for a thrill ride that will last about nine seconds, give or take, before ending at Hosmer Pond.

The volunteer-run event will attract thousands of people to Camden's town-owned skiing area starting Friday, doubling or perhaps tripling the coastal town's population, Edwards said. Organizers said 425 teams from all over the U.S. and Canada are set to participate and between 6,000 and 10,000 people are expected to attend.

The contest has competitions for two-, three- and four-person teams. Last year's winners were all from Maine and were called Two Wingnuts, Absolute Zeros and Instigator. Teams signed up for this year include Haligonian Hooligans from Nova Scotia, Canada, Drinking Team With A Tobogganing Problem from New York City, Nothing To Luge from Rhode Island and Two Pounds from California.

The competition often attracts a team from the Netherlands, but unfortunately they aren't coming this year, Edwards said. However, the team's absence could be good news for toboggan lovers: the Dutch always dominate the race's annual costume contest.