Winter in these parts, as we all know, is long and cold and can wear even the most hardened Mainers. Just when cabin fever is setting in, to the rescue comes the U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snowl Bowl.
The Championships provide most anything a person could ask for — a 400-foot-long iced chute, a giant bonfire, mechanical bull rides, delicious food, a disco dome complete with a mirrored lobster buoy spinning overhead, costumed participants — but not warmth, according to John Neville of Boston, who was dressed like a wolf as of part of the four-man team Little Sled Riding Hood.
A group of Camden Hills High School students ready to lug your toboggan to the top of the hill? That’s available, too, for $5, which will help the budding musicians travel to a music festival in Virginia Beach this year.
“Its kind of a ridiculous cult-type little event. It’s just people doing something to do something,” said downhill ski-maker Ian Reinholt of Phillips, who has competed several years in a row.
Other contestants are more serious. George Martin of the Andrews Brewing Company team, for instance, refuses to make eye contact when asked about the wax used to slicken the bottom of the sleds. Some things are just secret.
Chute the Moon, a team from New Hampshire, pulled an old toboggan from the third story of a barn for the 2011 championships, only to miss the finals by a fraction of a second. This year the team made its own toboggan from ash, mahogany and a pear tree harvested from Nathaniel Jones’ back yard, but missed the finals again.
“We had a great run, we had a little rubbing on the chute,” said Jones. “It’s still a sweet sled.”
Jones plans to return next year with his son to shoot the moon. And if they’re lucky — and a little faster — make the finals.