Monday, February 8, 2010, Camden, Maine Toboggan Times Archive #90

U.S. National Toboggan Championship Celebrates 20 Years

1st Timers take 1st place in 4-Person event

“20 years ago, we never thought we’d be standing here today” remarked David Dickey looking over the gathering crowd from his post at the top of the toboggan chute Saturday morning. Dickey is the man with the headphones who gives the go-ahead for each team to be released into the chute. He was just one of the people involved when Ken Baily came up with the idea of hosting a toboggan race daring to call it “The Nationals” over 20 years ago. Dickey didn’t have much time for musing however; there was a massive task before him. He and his crew had to launch over a thousand toboggans for the 20th annual Toboggan National Championships.

Many things have changed since The Nationals were first run in 1990; there are food vendors, spectator seats, souvenir sales, a warm building to house the timing equipment and race officials, and a decent platform at the top of the chute. Actual steps have been built into the hillside. An efficient procedure for loading the teams has been devised. National media cover the event and a year round committee plans every detail. Most importantly there are refined safety devices and procedures plus a network of people to insure safe practices.

Some things don’t change and even though it seems that authority attempts to prohibit any frivolity, the thrill of sitting on a bent piece of wood and dropping into the chute is still the same, and the fun is still abundant. This is what keeps The Nationals going.

There is the costume contest. It’s an avenue into the winner’s circle that does not involve a fast sled. People with a completely different skill set can come away with a trophy. This year there was a team of Pencil Heads, a team that looked like a banana split when laid out on a toboggan and a group of Keystone Cops. The Cash Cows made a showing as did the Sled-X delivery men and the team with the big ears. Oscar Verest of Camden however won the costume contest with his Royal Dutch National Toboggan Team when the four bulky men came dressed as little Dutch girls, complete with orange braids and Dutch hats. Very cute.

In toboggan racing there are so many variable that no one team has a lock on first place for very long. That is the beauty of the sport and what keeps hopes up for those that never won. The most prestigious award is first place in the four-man division. This year it was awarded to Redneck Racers, a new team from the Hollis, Maine area that had only one toboggan and only one team entered. Even more incredible, the 8 foot, 6-slat toboggan was old -and borrowed.

Marc Desrochers, one of the team members explained that the crew made some minor modifications to the sled making sure that they could reverse them when the time came to return it. He explained that two of the team had watched the races in the past but never participated. Never mind that Desrochers is a mechanical engineer and that all of his teammates work at General Dynamics. “All team members made good contributions”, he explains, indicating that they are not all engineers. They were planning to build a new sled for next year but now they are planning to reconsider. Desrochers indicated that they would return in 2011.

The Kansas City Connection took first place in the 2-Person division while Medical Miracles claimed first place in the Three-Person category. Chute to Thrill was deemed the fastest all-female team and C-School You Later, the fastest high school team. Section 2074, a team name that refers to Title 29-A, section 2074 of the Maine State Statutes (referring to operating vehicles at prudent speeds), took the trophy for fastest college team. They represented the University of Maine, School of Law – of course.  

Just like the houses in Las Vegas, the Camden Snow Bowl always emerges a winner. In 20 years of hosting the event, they have never shut down because of the weather. They’ve come very close, but they’ve never had to refund any entry fees because the event was canceled.  The event raises about $40,000 for the Snow Bowl and keeps it operating in the black.

Fireworks celebrating 20 years were presented Saturday night over Camden Harbor. This was part of the connection with downtown Camden that the Snow Bowl has established. Plans keep expanding. Jeff Kuller, the general manager of the Snow Bowl reviewed an ambitious $6.5 million redevelopment plan at the awards ceremony to construct a new lodge, lifts, trails and a host of other modifications and amenities. He assured the crowd that the only facility to remain where it is now located is the toboggan chute.

David Dickey may not have imagined where we would be today 20 years ago, but the odds of the 40th Toboggan National Championships happening in 2030 are better than average if the Snow Bowl has its way.


Andy Hazen from Lincolnville and his team #121, The Flying Beer Boys, begin their run towards Hosmer Pond after being lowered into the chute Early Saturday. The experienced three-person team from Lincolnville, Maine, eventually tied for 7th place in the finals.


Going with the strategy of "beauty, not speed" team #353, the Lickety Splits, did not qualify for the finals although they looked delicious. Coming from York, Maine and Portsmouth, NH they are Gwen Schnaittacher, Jennifer Scism, Jo Vranicar, and Terry Ann McKeon. This is their 6th year at the Nationals.


Megan and Patrick Lavin from Hopkinton, New Hampshire are part of the In One Ear and Down The Chute 3-person Team (#120). Here they show off their safety helmets which apparently keep their other ear from over inflating.

The Redneck Racers Team #221, scratch their way across very rough Hosmer Pond Ice on their way to claiming first place in the 4-person division. The team comes from the Saco, MAine area.


Spectators at the boat piers of Camden Harbor watch the fireworks celebrating twenty years of the US National Toboggan Championships. The show started at 6pm even though at the races it was announced throughout the day that the fireworks would begin at 5:30 PM. Only those dressed for tobogganing survived the wait.

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