The ice on Hosmer Pond is thick and Ragged Mountain is ready for the 20th U.S. National Toboggan Championships beginning Friday, Feb. 5 at the Camden Snow Bowl.

On Thursday, the chute was being tested, as a variety of reporters and camera crews from all manner of media made complimentary runs down the 400-foot chute. By Friday, hundreds of teams were pouring into the area, prepping their toboggans and costumes for the annual event that draws visitors from all over the country, even world.

The competition is a throwback from the days when toboggan runs were common. The event also serves as the centerpiece of the area’s “Ice-Stravaganza” week, featuring all things Maine, including skiing, toboggan races, ice carving, fireworks, chili and chowder challenges, a winter triathlon, and pancake breakfasts.

Because the weekend draws so many to the Snow Bowl, parking fees will be instituted Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 6 and 7. Skiers are reminded that there are no exceptions to the parking fee, and parking is limited. All visitors to the mountain are encouraged to take free shuttle buses that will run from the lower lot of the Camden-Rockport Middle School and from the Knox Mill parking lot, Village Green bus stop and Camden Public Safety Building parking lot every 20 minutes on Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the toboggan championships, this year’s event will include a race to determine a new reigning world champion four-person team. The first world toboggan championship race was held in 2005 to commemorate the event’s 15th anniversary. All four-person first-place teams from the past 20 years will be invited for a one-run, winner-take-all runoff on Sunday, Feb. 7 at the conclusion of the races.

Teams invited to compete in a 2010 world championship runoff will be: The Nads (1991), The Knoxers (1992), Throbbin’ Boggins (1993), Big Kahoonas (1994, 1995, 2005, reigning world toboggan champions), Slab City Sliders (1996 and 1997), Thrill Seeking Patriots (1998), Beefy Boys (1999), Head of the Boards (2000), Quatro Dermis (2001), Foul Wind (2002) and Vertically Inclined (2003).

The U.S. National Toboggan Championships are open to two-, three- and four-person teams riding traditionally shaped wood toboggans that drop onto the 400-foot-long, 70-foot-high, ice-filled chute and reach speeds of up to 40 mph before sliding across frozen Hosmer Pond.

Ken Bailey of Hope will again emcee this year’s toboggan championships, an event he started 20 years ago when he was the town’s parks and recreation director. Bailey, who has been battling illness in recent years, has only missed attending the toboggan championships a few years.

Use of the shuttle service provided is strongly advised as the parking lot will fill quickly with skiers, snowboarders, tubers, spectators and tobogganers, organizers said. A shuttle map is available online at camdensnowbowl.com.

The U.S. National Toboggan Championships are the only organized wooden toboggan races in the country and perhaps the world. Each February, racers of all ages and abilities from around the country compete for the coveted honor of U.S. national champion, with all race proceeds benefiting local youth activities and the Camden Snow Bowl.

The schedule for the weekend of the toboggan nationals includes:

Friday, Feb. 5

Noon to 8 p.m. — Check-in and toboggan inspections at the Snow Bowl Lodge.

1 to 4 p.m. — Practice runs for preregistered teams (conditions permitting).

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. — Snow Bowl open for skiing and snowboarding.

5 to 7 p.m. — Spaghetti supper at the Rockport Masonic Center on Main Street.

Saturday, Feb. 6

7 to 9 a.m. — Pancake breakfast at the Camden Teen Center on Knowlton Street.

7 a.m. to noon — Check-in and toboggan inspections at the information booth near the chute.

8 a.m. to noon — Qualifying runs for two- and three-person teams (first and second runs).

8 a.m. to 4 p.m. —  Free ongoing shuttle service ($5 on-site parking fee).

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Snow Bowl open for skiing, snowboarding and tubing. Souvenirs available at the Chute Shop.

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Chili and Chowder Challenge (on-site).

1 to 4 p.m. — Qualifying runs for four-person teams (first run).

5:30 p.m. — Fireworks in downtown Camden.

7:30 p.m. — Audio Body at the Camden Opera House; tickets $10 in advance and $14 at the door.

Sunday, Feb. 7

7 to 9 a.m. — Pancake breakfast on-site.

9 a.m. — Qualifying runs for four-person teams (second run).

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Free shuttle service ($5 on-site parking fee).

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Snow Bowl open for skiing, snowboarding and tubing. Souvenirs available at the Chute Shop.

National finals: top 30 of two-person teams; 
top 30 of three-person teams; and 
top 75 of four-person teams.

World championship finals: four-person team winners of the past 20 years.

3 p.m. — Awards ceremony and drawings.