Tobogganing: A cure for the common cabin fever

Posted Feb. 13, 2012, at 5:11 p.m.
Members of the four-person toboggan team Too Big to Fail get wrapped around each other with a little help from staff members at the 22nd annual U.S. National Toboggan championships on Saturday, Feb 11, 2012 at the Camden Snow Bowl.
Members of the four-person toboggan team Too Big to Fail get wrapped around each other with a little help from staff members at the 22nd annual U.S. National Toboggan championships on Saturday, Feb 11, 2012 at the Camden Snow Bowl. Buy Photo
Toboggan racers cover the 400 feet of iced chute in less then 10 seconds.
Toboggan racers cover the 400 feet of iced chute in less then 10 seconds. Buy Photo
Jim Tyler of Searsport, a 15-year racing veteran who is part of the two-man toboggan team Beer Coasters, applies wax to the bottom of a toboggan. Wax type is a closely guarded secret among the serious toboggan competitors.
Jim Tyler of Searsport, a 15-year racing veteran who is part of the two-man toboggan team Beer Coasters, applies wax to the bottom of a toboggan. Wax type is a closely guarded secret among the serious toboggan competitors. Buy Photo
International tobogganers Esther Pellemans, Rob Vrolyk, Hans Haan, Jacques Verest and Oscar Verest, all from Holland, pose for a portrait before taking to the iced chute.
International tobogganers Esther Pellemans, Rob Vrolyk, Hans Haan, Jacques Verest and Oscar Verest, all from Holland, pose for a portrait before taking to the iced chute. Buy Photo
Hillary Neville waits with the rest Boston-based team Little Sled Riding Hood at the base of the wooden stairs leading to the toboggan chute. Neville and her team won best costume for the event.
Hillary Neville waits with the rest Boston-based team Little Sled Riding Hood at the base of the wooden stairs leading to the toboggan chute. Neville and her team won best costume for the event. Buy Photo
Members of Team Snarf spill on the ice of Hosmer Pond.
Members of Team Snarf spill on the ice of Hosmer Pond. Buy Photo
A three-person female team prepares to launch down the ice-covered chute.
A three-person female team prepares to launch down the ice-covered chute. Buy Photo
Members of the Hot Mamas toboggan team, left to right, Heather Hearst, Kate Cohen, Diana Castle and Marianne Forti pose for a picture in front of their ice encampment on Hosmer Pond.
Members of the Hot Mamas toboggan team, left to right, Heather Hearst, Kate Cohen, Diana Castle and Marianne Forti pose for a picture in front of their ice encampment on Hosmer Pond. Buy Photo
&quotIt was a lot harder then it looks in the movies," said Shawn Albertson after the  mechanical bull ride threw him off.
"It was a lot harder then it looks in the movies," said Shawn Albertson after the mechanical bull ride threw him off. Buy Photo

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.

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