2014 U.S. National Toboggan Championships


Sadie Allen, a student at Camden Hills Regional High School, sings the national anthem to start the 2014 U.S. National Toboggan Championships races Saturday, Feb. 8. As is the tradition, the American flag is brought down the chute on a toboggan, escorted by members of the U.S Coast Guard. During race weekends, local Coast Guard volunteers provide ice safety for racers out on the ice.

More than 45 toboggan teams took advantage of the early race opportunity late Friday afternoon, when two-person and three-person teams were afforded the option to take their first runs beginning at 4 p.m.

The 24th annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships are underway, with action continuing Saturday and Sunday.

The race action is being broadcast live on local cable Channel 7, and can also be viewed online via livestreaming video here.

The weather is supposed to be gorgeous in Camden, and the Toboggan National committee is anticipating record crowds along with bright sun and highs in the mid-20s.

The crowd at the West Bay Rotary Down the Chute Beer and Wine Tasting near the entrance to Tobogganville has been packed, and it continues through 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 at the door and there are a dozen Maine breweries and wineries offering tastings.

The action picks up again tomorrow bright and early, with team registration and toboggan inspections from 7 to 11 a.m. Racing for two- and three-person teams begins at 8 a.m. following the national anthem and the first sled down the chute, ridden by members of U.S. Coast Guard Station Rockland. Racing for four-person teams begins at 1 p.m., but all teams need to be registered and ready to race by 11 a.m.

There’s going to be plenty to do and see Saturday between the races, with a bevy of food vendors ready to feed the masses, a mechanical bull for sheer entertainment, a costume parade at noon and a chili challenge beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Parking at the Snow Bowl is limited, and the lot fills up by around 10 a.m. Parking is $8 per vehicle. Four shuttle buses have been hired to shuttle racers and spectators to and from downtown and the Snow Bowl, and it’s a $2 round-trip on the bus. Riding the shuttle bus is highly encouraged and all efforts have been made to ensure it’s a quick, pleasant ride and that buses are constantly available at both ends of the route. Pickup downtown is at the Village Green on Elm Street and pickup at the Snow Bowl is near the tennis courts.

Come out and enjoy winter in Maine

ROCKPORT — On Monday, the guys finally found the sled tucked in the back corner of the garage, beneath the Mercury outboard. They hauled out the 10-foot-long toboggan, stretching it over a board that rested on top of a tool box and an old four wheeler with a few tires missing. This was the operating theater, where, for the next five days there would be a lot of waxing, adjusting, analyzing, speculating, and general BS-ing. Showtime for the U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl was fast on the approach, and Team Weekend at Ewie's had a lot to do to get ready.... Kind of. (Read the full story here.)

A colorful character who has played a key role in the Toboggan Nationals for many years is chute master Stuart Young. His job, which has been a labor of love, is to make sure the chute is in excellent shape for race weekend.

For general use, Young likes to keep an inch of ice in the chute, but during the Toboggan Nationals he builds up a 2- to 3-inch base of ice. To help with several late nights and early mornings tending and fretting about the chute during the days leading up to the start of the races each year, Young deploys a miniature specialized Zamboni, which is an invention of chute patron David Dickey. Rube Goldberg would be proud of what goes on behind the scenes to prepare for this event!

On occasion there are repairs to the chute during the off season to straighten out twists and calm frost heaves that can make for bumpy rides lying on traditional wooden toboggans going at speeds of nearly 40 mph. But you can tell it's all worth it when you see Young at the top of the chute on race day, with a smile as big as any first-time racer's, as he pulls the handle to release each sled.

This winter’s storms and frigid temperatures are making perfect conditions for the 24th annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships, Feb. 7-9 at the Camden Snow Bowl. Team registrations are filling up, and with a limit on the number of available slots, sign up now before the race roster is full.

TobogganSchedule of Events:

All times are approximate. Announcer will update the schedule.
Racers: Arrive early and plan to spend the day!


10 a.m.-7 p.m. — Team registration and inspections - Tobogganville
10 a.m.- 3 p.m. — Toboggan chute open to, public, conditions permitting, $5/person
3 p.m.-7 p.m. — Down the Chute Beer & Wine Challenge - West Bay Rotary Tent
4-6:30 p.m. — 2- and 3-person division FIRST RUNS, first runs can also be taken Saturday morning
4-7 p.m. — Mechanical bull rides - Tobogganville
10 a.m.-8 p.m. — Bonfire, food vendors, souvenir sales, music, lifts open for skiing and snowboarding


7-11 a.m. — Team registration and toboggan inspections - Tobogganville
7 a.m.-5 p.m. — Bus shuttle service from downtown Camden - Shuttle pick-up at the Village Green, $2 roundtrip.
8 a.m. — FIRST RUNS* for remainder of 2- and 3-person divisions. Optional SECOND RUNS immediately after first runs.
9 a.m.-4 p.m. — Snow Bowl open for skiing, snowboarding and tubing
10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Mechanical bull rides in Tobogganville
10:30 a.m. — SECOND RUNS for 2- and 3-person divisions (Second run is optional for fast times)
11 a.m.-2 p.m. — Chili Challenge - West Bay Rotary Tent
11:30 a.m. — FIRST RUNS for experimental division
Noon-1 p.m. — Costume contest parade (Judges will determine 1st, 2nd and 3rd places)
1-4 p.m. — FIRST RUNS for 4-person teams


8 a.m.-4 p.m. — Bus shuttle service from downtown Camden, shuttle pick-up at the Village Green, $2 roundtrip.
9 a.m. — SECOND RUNS for 4-person teams (Second run is optional for fast times)
9 a.m.-4 p.m. — Snow Bowl open for skiing, snowboarding and tubing
11 a.m. — SECOND RUNS for experimental division (Second run is optional for fast times)
Noon — FINAL RUNS, in the following order: (Two runs are REQUIRED for all finalists)

- Top 25 – 2-person teams
- Top 25 – 3-person teams
- Top 50 – 4-person teams
- Top 25 percent – Experimental teams

3 p.m. — Award ceremonies and drawings - Tobogganville. Awards are given to the top three teams in each division, plus special awards for: experimental division, best costume, oldest team, fastest team, fastest women's team, fastest children's team, fastest high school team, fastest college team and best crafted toboggan.


Story and photos by Holly S. Edwards

HOPBen McGinnisE — Nestled next to Hatchet Mountain Public House and across the street from elephants Rosie and Opal, Ben McGinnis lives in a modest little house dappled with his art. There are watercolor and gouache paintings on the walls, elaborate illustrations tucked in portfolios leaning against the staircase, a handcarved wood totem pole on the porch and a black walnut carved whale hanging in the kitchen.

Since 2007, McGinnis has either created, finished or modified-to-completion the official poster designs for the annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships, now in its 24th year.

The poster for the 17th annual "Toboggan Nationals" introduced an image of Maine animal heads on the bodies of warmly dressed people, loaded up on a traditional wooden toboggan. The theme carried for at least four years, including one year when the animal heads were replaced with classic comedian faces from The Lucy Show and The Jackie Gleason Show – all wearing Groucho Marx eyeglasses.

This year, McGinnis painted an original piece of art that perfectly captures the playful spirit that is the "Toboggan Nationals," but in a totally different way.

"Something completely different was needed. I didn't want to put animal heads on people's bodies again," said McGinnis. "While looking through old photos, I saw a bunch of classic, art deco, nostalgic ski posters and the sentimentality of it hit me. The sentimental value we hold for these old ski resorts really stuck as a theme, in part because of the sentimental feeling we have about the Snow Bowl."

He began the painting in October, and worked on it as often as he could. McGinnis is a graphic designer at Adventure Advertising, owned and operated by Joe and Ginny Ryan. McGinnis also does 2014 USTN Posterfreelance work on the side.

He produced his first ad agency illustration in 1984 and he first moved from Ohio to Maine five years later, working on his own, doing some freelance illustrating in watercolor and gouache, which was cheaper than oil and acrylic on stretched canvas. To make ends meet, the then-starving artist did a stint cleaning dogfish for North Atlantic Sea Products in Rockland.

"I found it wasn't for me, cleaning fish, so I moved back to Ohio," said McGinnis. "Then in 2003, a dear friend of mine died and that brought me back to Maine, to check on her husband and make sure he was OK. I also made contact with Joe [Ryan] again, as I met him the first time around, and I said, 'You know that job you offered me before...?'" Joe made it happen and I have been at Adventure almost 10 years now."

At Adventure, and often at home, McGinnis works in front of a tablet and an Apple monitor. Drawing and "painting" with the tablet is how he does most of his illustrations.

"For illustrations, the tablet is great because I can completely erase what I don't like and not destroy the paper, and I can work in layers, though I use a stylus and do everything by hand," said McGinnis. "It's not like I tell the computer I want some grass or a tree limb and it puts it in there for me. I still have to create it, draw it."

But he also uses pen and ink and paint, when the job calls for it. This year's Toboggan Nationals poster is a watercolor painting. And for McGinnis, the expressions on the faces were very important and he worked hard to achieve the bright color of the woman's coat.

"The girl has changed dramatically over the months, and all the faces have at least three or four versions under the final face because I wasn't quite satisfied with their characters," said McGinnis. "The illustration needed to tell a story and their faces needed to be just right to do that."

Faces are important to McGinnis, because they convey the story, and because they are key to his overall inspiration.

"I had this reporter interview me once, and I told him that trees inspire me, that I see faces in trees and I feel like they have souls and I am drawn to capture that," said McGinnis. "In the story, he wrote, 'McGinnis stares at trees,' but with no explanation. There is so much in a tree and a face, and that's what inspires me."

Rankin's 600x100

After your team has registered and your toboggan has been inspected, head over to the West Bay Rotary Tent in Tobogganville for the Second Eva Down the Chute Beer & Wine Challenge.

A limited number of tickets will be sold for this tasting event Friday, Feb. 7, from 3 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, and $30 at the door, until they run out. Proceeds will be shared between the Camden Snow Bowl and West Bay Rotary Club. Participants will receive a commemorative glass to sample beers and wines provided by a dozen Maine breweries and wineries.

Participating this year are:
Andrews Brewing
Blacksmiths Winery
Baxter Brewing Co.
Breakwater Vineyards
Cellardoor Winery
Downeast Cider House
Fat Frair's Mead
Fatty Bampkins Maine Hard Cider
Monhegan Brewing Co.
Rock Harbor Brewing Co.
Sebago Brewing Co.
Shipyard Brewing Co.

In addition to being able to sample local beers and wines, participants can enter their names into a raffle drawing for prizes  being donated by the breweries and wineries, vote for their favorite brewer/vintner and purchase logo-wear commemorating the event.

For more information, call 592-1806 and/or visit Down the Chute on Facebook.