Archive 40
Archived 02/12/2010

'09 U.S. Nationals pulled off without a hitch

After two months of brutal winter weather along the Maine coast, the sun came out, the wind died down and temperatures soared into the high thirties just in time for the 19th annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships. To the local residents it suddenly felt as if we were all living in the banana belt. Just before the weekend, freezing conditions made it possible for the chute crews to build up enough ice on the Jack Williams Toboggan Chute to last the entire race. The ice cover on Hosmer Pond was at least 12 inches thick, ideal to support the host of tailgate parties and team shelters on the ice affectionately known as the "toboggan ghetto".

A new safety system put into place after two consecutive seasons of unfortunate accidents proved effective and no incidents were reported during the runs down the chute which numbered over a thousand for the two day event.

The Ken Bailey Timing Shack made its debut at the bottom of the chute. The shack offers protection for the race officials from the elements and gives them a clear view of the chute and run out onto Hosmer Pond. It replaces the van that for so many years was always parked on the ice at the bottom of the chute. Race officials offered praise for the amenities of the new shack and no one was heard pining for the cramped quarters of the van. The timing van was graciously supplied all these years by Bohndell Sails of Rockport, Maine who deserve a round of thanks from the tobogganing community.

Also introduced this year was a new identification system for the toboggan teams and individuals. A team tag on a lanyard showing the team number replaced the racing bib in use since the U.S. Toboggan Nationals began. No longer did racers have to struggle with getting the too small bibs, which are really made for svelte ski racers, over their heavy winter clothing. Most all participants reported that they favored the tags to the bibs because they offered more freedom, were less bothersome and in fact, more stylish than the old numbered bibs. The only ones complaining were the photographers who found it easy to identify the teams when they sported the large numbers.

Green bracelets, the non-removable, single use type that are found at fairs and major events, were employed this year to positively identify race participants who had registered and signed the required liability waver.

Employees at the Camden Snow Bowl, which benefits from hosting The Nationals, suspect that attendance was the highest on record. No official tally is kept but judging from the parking lot and the shuttle bus ridership, up to 4,000 people may have attended the weekend romp.2009 saw more teams, more parking and more food vendors than any prior year. Since the race days were so pleasant, many visitors to the championships also took part of their day for alpine skiing at the Snow Bowl or tubing down the hill prepared just for that winter delight.

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