Snow much fun: After blizzard, toboggan racers streak to championshipsStorm limits 23rd annual event to one day of racing down 400-foot wooden chute
Camden — While the rest of the Northeast dug out from the feet of snow that fell Friday and Saturday, Feb. 8-9, hundreds of others simply soaked up the new winter landscape and slid down an icy 400-foot wooden chute onto Hosmer Pond in one glorious day of racing Sunday, Feb. 10 during the 23rd annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl.
Despite the feet of snow Mother Nature delivered Friday and Saturday in the form of a blizzard named Nemo, hundreds of racers in the two- , three- and four-person divisions, along with the experimental category, made their way to the Snow Bowl Sunday to compete in the popular wintertime event.
Photos from the event also appear below.
Due to the massive storm that rocked the Pine Tree State over the weekend, the toboggan championships were limited to one day of racing, with Saturday's regular events canceled.
However, the snow simply made the atmosphere during Sunday's only day of racing that much more fun as the sun shone brightly and the temperatures were in the 30s, although wind often made it feel like it was in the mid- to-high 20s, in the new wonderful winter wonderland.
All of this made for perfect conditions for streaking down the toboggan chute and milling around Tobogganville. The Snow Bowl reported 30 inches of fresh powder on its ski slopes, with plenty of skiers and snowboarders taking advantage of new snow.
The toboggan championships, one of the Snow Bowl's most important fundraising events of the year, have been popular for more than two decades, giving people of all ages a chance to express themselves with interesting costumes and team names, as well as to test their bravery sitting or lying on a toboggan with one, two or three others and being dropped down the icy chute at speeds that can reach nearly 40 mph.
Awards were given to first, second and third in each division, plus the following special honors: Best costume, fastest team, fastest women's team, fastest children's team, fastest high school team, fastest college team, best-crafted toboggan and the oldest team (which will be determined later).
The official top-three finishers in each division from the 2013 U.S. National Toboggan Championships, with place, team name, bib number, residence, first run time, second run time and total time listed, were:
Two-person — 1, Fat Bloated Idiots (#84), Turner, 8.89 first run and 8.83 second run for 17.72 total time; 2, Throbbin' Boggins 2 (#48), Camden, 8.9 and 8.91 for 17.81; and 3, Beer Coasters (#22), Lincolnville, 8.93 and 8.9 for 17.83.
Three-person — 1, Absolute Zeros (#182), Turner, 8.84 and 8.83 for 17.67; 2, Splittin' Adams (#159), Belfast, 8.84 and 8.88 for 17.72; and 3, Flying Beer Boys (#112), Lincolnville, 8.87 and 8.88 for 17.75 and Spudrunner 3 (#121), Blaine, first and second run times unavailable, 17.75.
Four-person — 1, Bull Hoss Fusiliers (#313), Turner, 8.82 and 8.84 for 17.66; 2, Spudrunner 4 (#230), Blaine, 8.85 and 8.84 for 17.69; and 3, Southern Comfort (#221), Medway, Mass., 8.88 and 8.81 for 17.69.
Experimental — 1, Section 8 (#422), Thomaston, 8.81 and 8.78 for 17.59.
A PDF of all the qualifying and final runs for each division can be viewed by clicking the link below the photos.
Other awards — Fastest female team, Three Hot Women on Wood (#153), Union, 8.99; fastest kids' team, Rockport Rockettes (#390), Rockport, 9.06; fastest high school team, Arctic Kitties (#414), Camden, 9.00; fastest college team, Southern Comfort - Virginia Wesleyan College (#221), Medway, Mass., 8.91; best crafted toboggan, Pennsylvania State Champions (#36), Chalfont, Pa.; and best costume, Royal Dutch National Team (#69), Camden.
"Despite all of the chaos with the weather, we pulled it off and it turned out great after all," said Beth Ward, acting manager of the Camden Snow Bowl, adding she gives "a huge thank you to everyone who supported this event."
The U.S. National Toboggan Championships committee was forced to adjust its plans for the weekend due to the blizzard. The snow forced Saturday's racing and related activities in Tobogganville at the Snow Bowl to be canceled. Thus, a full day of racing was condensed into Sunday, Feb. 10.
The events for Friday, Feb. 8 were held earlier than scheduled that day.
Friday brought 150 toboggan teams to the Camden Snow Bowl to register and present their toboggans for official inspection. Teams, as well as the public, were able to ride the 400-foot wooden toboggan chute in preparation for the main event.
Racers from all over the country and beyond — ranging from Maine to California and outwards to Prince Edward Island — had registered to race in the event.
This year's races were sold out in advance of race day, with 425 teams vying for custom mahogany trophies and bragging rights. This year, as in the past two-plus decades the event has been held, most teams hailed from Maine, but many others came from across the country.
Those away teams represented Bow, Nashua, Newbury and Loudon, N.H.; Hatfield, Pa., Lakeville-Prince Edward Island, Canada; Charlestown, Norwell, North Attleboro, Brighton, Mass.; Warwick, R.I.; Groton and New London, Trumbull, Conn.; Baltimore and New Market, Md.; Tolland, Vista and Monarch Beach, Calif.; Whiting, N.J.; Waitsfield, Vt.; Norfolk, Va.; Carthage, N.C..; Chicago, Ill.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Stone Mountain, Ga.; Tuckahoe, N.Y.; Millsboro, Del.; Palm Harbor, Fla.; and Tuckahoe, N.M., to name a few.
After much of the snow had fallen Saturday, those involved with the event spent hours late Saturday and early Sunday digging out the Snow Bowl and the toboggan chute in preparation for Sunday's festivities.
Due to Nemo’s approach, the toboggan national committee met twice with town officials late last week to review the weather reports and consider options for what was to be a three-day event, Feb. 8-10. A preliminary course of action was decided Thursday night, but a final decision on the weekend's schedule waited until the National Weather Service updated its forecast Friday morning.
Following a committee meeting, which included representatives of the town's fire, police and ambulance organizations, the committee announced Friday morning it would be hold the races — albeit in a condensed format.
Saturday at the Snow Bowl was a day of cleanup and mitigation of damage due to wind gusts up to 55 mph. Sunday morning, beginning at 5 a.m., committee members and volunteers arrived en masse with shovels and plenty of enthusiasm to prepare the venue for racers and spectators.
And both racers and spectators came, beginning at about 6 a.m. Sunday. Teams setting up encampments and tailgating areas had to trudge through deep snow and shovel out their spaces, while organizers focused on shoveling out the souvenir shed, which would be the registration tent, since the blizzard prevented a tent from going up next to the shed.
It was just one of many accommodations made during the running of the 23rd U.S. National Toboggan Championships.
On Ragged Mountain, skiers and snowboarders crowded the lifts, anxious to hit the fresh powder that blanketed the slopes. "It was probably our busiest day skiing on the mountain," said Ward.
As Sunday progressed and everybody began to feel good about how it all came together, Toboggan Committee Chairman Holly S. Edwards expressed relief.
"It was a tough decision Friday morning to make the call to cancel racing Saturday, as we tried to weigh safety with the knowledge that racers had paid good money for their teams and they would want to race, snow or not," said Edwards. "But in the end, it was the absolute right decision [not to race Saturday], and while some might say we were lucky to pull it off the way we did, the committee, volunteers and Snow Bowl and town staff showed their dedication and commitment and made it happen."
For racers on Sunday, the event started at 8 a.m. with two- and three-person teams taking a single run to qualify for the finals. Following those groups were the experimental and the four-person teams. The best times for each division qualified, with the top 25 teams/times making it in the finals in the two- and three-person divisions and top 50 teams/times qualifying for the finals in the four-person division. For the experimental group, the top three times qualified for the finals.
Following a lunch break, there were memorial sled runs honoring Don Gross, Ken Bailey and Jeff Kuller, three men who did so much for the event in the past, all of whom died in the last year.
Andrew Dailey, marketing director for the Snow Bowl, called Bailey, Gross and Kuller "three great individuals connected to both the toboggan event and the Snow Bowl."
Kuller, the director of Camden Parks and Recreation (and the Snow Bowl), died Nov. 4, while Bailey, who spawned the idea for the initial toboggan event and was a well-known member of the community, died July 10. Bailey was a longtime timer of the races and the timing shed near the chute is named for him.
Gross, also affiliated with the Snow Bowl and the toboggan championships, was a member of the redevelopment committee to help build a new lodge at the Snow Bowl. He died March 15.
The racing finals began at approximately 1 p.m. Sunday. The format included two runs each for all divisions, beginning with the two- and three-person teams, followed by the four-person and experimental teams.
Edwards said the snow, of course, forced some registered racers not to participate. She said 21 two-person, 19 three-person and 60 four-person teams did not take preliminary runs Sunday. Thus, 100 of the 405 registered division teams were no-shows. She said she believes five of the seven registered experimental teams raced, which are in addition to the 405 total.
Edwards said the committee would have a better sense of spectator numbers at a post-event meeting later this week. She said financial figures will not be available until next week, at the earliest.
The beer and wine and chili and chowder challenges were canceled.
Chutemaster Stuart Young of Camden said last week the U.S. National Toboggan Championships are an important fundraiser for Snow Bowl. Young said at the time of its inception the event raised approximately $5,000 annually, but now generates about $17,000 in revenue, which Young said is a "big asset" to Snow Bowl's operating budget. Of course, that number varies from year to year.
Dailey said 6,000 to 8,000 people attended last year's event, which brought in roughly $425,000 to area businesses.
For more information, click here to find the U.S. National Toboggan Championship website.
Information released by the U.S. Toboggan National Championship committee was used for a portion of this story.
Courier Publications news staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.