Undeterred by whatever Mother Nature tosses up, U.S. Toboggan Nationals to get underway

Extreme cold in forecast pushes Camden toboggan races to Sunday, only – but they will go on

Tue, 01/31/2023 - 7:00pm

    CAMDEN — At first, the winter was too warm and Hosmer Pond froze, melted, froze and melted again, making it too unsafe to even think about running toboggans over it. So, volunteers and staff the Camden Snow Bowl built a new toboggan chute for this weekend’s annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships, avoiding the pond altogether. Now, with dangerously cold temperatures in the forecast for Friday and Saturday, organizers are, in the words of Holly Anderson, going to “pivot once again” and move all of the races to Sunday, Feb. 5.

    This is not the first time that Mother Nature has spun clouds of crazy weather just in time for the annual celebration of Maine winter and all things toboggan. And, as they have done for the past 31 years, organizers are making sure the popular event gets underway, despite whatever modifications have to be made. It is winter on the coast of Maine, and  unpredictable weather is what makes life interesting here.

    But this latest forecast chilled the bones of even the hardiest. 

    Due to settle in Friday, the oncoming air mass brings a night-time low of -19 degrees F, and will be accompanied by fierce winds. With wind chill factors, temperatures are expected to fall as low as -35 degrees F by 7 a.m. Saturday morning — beyond unsafe for humans and animals. Frostbite and hypothermia can come on fast, and are nothing to tangle with.

    “But by Sunday at 8 a.m. the air temperature and wind chill will both be above zero,” said the Camden Snow Bowl, which hosts the annual mid-winter event. 

    For those arriving ahead of the weekend, there are still plenty of activities happening in Camden, with concerts at both the Camden and Rockport opera houses, and stores and restaurants open.

    “It's going to be busy in town, so call ahead for reservations for Friday and Saturday night,” said Anderson.

    The 32nd annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships was scheduled to run from Feb. 3-5. The new alternate chute is nearby the original Jack Williams Chute, but it just takes a different path down the mountain, and instead of emptying out on an expanse of Hosmer Pond ice, tobogganers will ride out the end in softer snow.

    Teams will still line up alongside the original Jack Williams Chute, but head the opposite direction at the top of the stairs to the new launcher and chute recently built on the snow, said Anderson.

    Tobogganville will remain in its usual location, near the Jack Williams Chute, but the temporary village of tents and yurts and ice shacks that always springs up on the Hosmer Pond ice was to move on land, and a new geography, “Fieldtown” was being made for those wanting to set up camp over the weekend at the Snow Bowl.

    But it is just too cold.

    On Tuesday, Jan. 31, a meeting was held and the determination was made to push all races to Sunday, when temperatures are expected to rebound to 30 degrees F. 

    “We appreciate your enthusiasm for this event, and we believe this plan is in the best interest of everybody concerned,” said Anderson. “We urge everyone to take the cold weather seriously, dress appropriately, be safe and watch out for each other Sunday. We look forward to seeing racers Friday and Saturday at check-in, when you will have a chance to view the new snow chute that you will soon be sliding down!”

    She circulated the following information:

    In order to run a one-day event, an abbreviated race format is necessary and will allow for preliminary runs, finals and awards by the end of the day Sunday.

    Team check-in and toboggan inspections will commence as follows. Team captains and racers can pick up bibs and bracelets, sign waivers and have their toboggans inspected Friday, from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Tobogganville.

    Racing will begin an hour earlier than scheduled on Sunday, starting with 2-Person teams at 8 a.m. All teams will take ONE run to determine standings in the finals.

    Between 8 and 10 a.m., 2-Person and 3-Person teams will take their runs, with 2-Person teams going first. Beginning at 10 a.m., 4-Person teams will take their single runs, followed by Experimental teams, with prelims concluding around noon.

    There will be a break until 1 p.m. and then finals will begin, with 2-Person and 3-Person teams taking two runs each, followed by 4-Person and Experimental teams.

    The finals will consist of the 40 fastest 2-Person teams, 40 fastest 3-Person teams, 50 fastest 4-Person teams and 25% of the fastest Experimental teams.

    At this stage, vendors, registration and the souvenir concession building will all remain set up in Tobogganville as originally planned.

    In lieu of a costume parade, judges will be viewing costumes throughout the venue and the day Sunday, and winners announced during awards.

    The awards ceremony will be held in the Snow Bowl lodge at the conclusion of racing Sunday afternoon.

    Sea Dog Brewing, the Vintage Room at 16 Bay View, Waterfront Restaraunt, and Barren's Distillery-Restarant are all sponsors of the event and look forward to welcoming toboggan racers to town.