Race for the Ages

The U.S. National Toboggan Championships draws a crowd for a one-of-a-kind weekend in Camden.

It was a bitterly cold weekend in Camden when photographer Dave Waddell arrived at the U.S. National Toboggan Championships. He and a few friends had set up a tent at the end of the toboggan chute on Friday night, but when they returned the next morning, “All four posts had been completely sheared off by the wind coming across Hosmer Pond,” Waddell says. Their tent was nowhere to be found. So, they improvised with a makeshift fire pit and huddled around its warmth. The group watched as the winter landscape swelled with friends and families, and racers and spectators alike, all buzzing from the excitement in the air. It was an instant sense of community, and everyone was made to feel welcome, says Waddell. People came from around the world, traveling from as close by as “right down the road” to as far away as Australia. Waddell even met an Iditarod sledding coach from Alaska who was reveling at the chance to hang out in the freezing weather. Despite the biting cold, as many as 5,000 people attended, with upward of 400 competing teams. Waddell and his friends were one of those teams. Barreling down the 400-foot chute at 40 miles per hour and sliding across an icy pond was an experience like no other, he says. “I don’t know of anywhere else in the world where you can find something quite like this, and certainly not with the breathtaking backdrop of a place like Camden in the winter.” The 2020 U.S. National Toboggan Championships are scheduled for February 7–9.

A team of four exits the toboggan chute and rockets out onto Hosmer Pond. Once free from the confines of the chute, the sleds often twist and spin across the ice for nearly a quarter-mile before coming to stop near the opposite side of the pond.

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