Spirit is something that can be discovered but not taught. And there can be something said about the crazy spirits who battle the brisk February air in hopes to claim Camden Bowl's annual US National Toboggan Championship. DNA Photography ventured out to Hosmer Pond in February in hopes to catch the last few runs of the tournament and to see if reigning champions (Tim Flick and his crew) could repeat another clean sweep of all the major events as they did in 2013. The boys faired well and managed to repeat as the 2-man champions. Below find a current photo of Flick from this year's event in addition to a feature story we covered on him in the Lewiston/Auburn Magazine in December of 2012 (please not that we have added a few updates where we felt it was needed).
Waking up to a fresh mound of virgin snow is a dream come true for many young Mainers. Grabbing a thin plastic sled and heading to the largest hill in the area becomes a priority. A strenuous trek through knee-high snow to the crest of the hill is the price that must be paid for an exhilarating journey down the slope. And after the adrenaline rush is over, it’s back up the hill again. Most of those who enjoy careening down hills on sleds are young, but not all. Timothy Flick, 48 (now 49), of Turner is one who refuses to let his inner child die and not only does he continue to slide down icy slopes, he is one of four teammates who have held the title of national toboggan champion.
Every February Camden’s Snow Bowl on Ragged Mountain is transformed into a national competition that draws in thousands of spectators and competitors. “This year marks its 23rd year,” Flick said. “I’ve been competing since 1993 and will keep competing until my body stops me from doing it.”
This national competition is rare and according to organizers it may be the only wooden toboggan race of its kind in the world. “There are teams that come from all over, some from Canada and one from as far down as Virginia,” Flick said. He started competing back when he lived in New York. His brother-in-law, Doug Pope of Warren, asked him if he would like to race in a toboggan competition that Pope’s employer, Bohndell Sails (owned by Bob and Susan Chase of Camden), was sponsoring at the time.
“I was familiar with Maine because my mother was from Farmington and we spent most of our summers here,” he said. “I figured tobogganing was something fun and different to try.” Flick helped Pope form teams and together they crafted their own toboggans to race.
The competition plays out as a fun-filled weekend for the whole family and comes complete with vendors, costume and food contests and a flurry of possible awards ranging from fastest kid’s run to the oldest team.
The original chute was built back in 1936 and then rebuilt again in 1954 by the local Coast Guardsmen. Rot forced the shutdown of the chute in 1964 and it was not resurrected until 1990. “It’s 400 feet long and empties onto a frozen Hosmer Pond,” he said. “You get going pretty fast and before you know it, you’re at the bottom quickly looking to make your way back up for another run.” Every team gets two runs in each contest they enter. “You want to try and get your first run in as early as possible before it warms up,” he said. “The colder it is the better your run will be.”
Records indicate that toboggans have reached speeds up to 40 mph on the chute. According to Flick several variables help or hurt the speed of a sled. “It has to be made of the right material,” he said, revealing that his team’s wood choice is ash. “It also helps to get as aerodynamic as possible; this means you need to be comfortable getting quite friendly with your teammates,” he said, elaborating on his team’s centipede-like formation they use in order to get all of the riders on their sleds. Sleds are inspected for length and weight amongst other strict requirements.
So what does it take to be a national toboggan champion? “Good craftsmanship, an understanding of the elements and the chute, and of course luck,” he said. Flick believes he has had his share of that seeing as last year was the first time he worked primarily alone on crafting one of his team’s sleds and it happened to be the one that his team used to secure and win their first four-person victory.
In 2013 Flick and company did what he believe to be the first true sweep by winning the 4-person-, three-person- and two person events.
So what draws this born-and-raised upstate New Yorker with a bachelor’s in biology to such a unique sport? “It has to be the overall fun of the event and the unique characters you get to meet that really makes the event enjoyable,” he said. “That and it is something different for people to experience and is a sure cure for cabin fever.”
(To read the complete unabridged story visit http://www.la-mag.com/dashing-through-the-snow-toboggan-style/)