Featured image courtesy of Camden Snow Bowl

Winter is a stunningly beautiful time to escape to MidCoast Maine and enjoy the coziest, comfiest accommodations here at The Craignair Inn by the Sea.

Simply basking in that seasonal splendor—the snowbound woods, the iced-over lakes, the wild winter seascape—is reason enough to steal away to our luxury B&B in Spruce Head, Maine. But there’s much to do besides gaze out at the wintry wonderland: from cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to holiday festivities.

And if you ask us, one of the all-out highlights of our MidCoast winter is the one-of-a-kind sporting competition that goes down in early February at the Camden Snow Bowl a mere half-hour or so from our Inn: the U.S. National Toboggan Championships.

This utterly delightful event is truly something to experience at least once, and The Craignair Inn makes the perfect home base for doing so!

The U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl

Owned by the Town of Camden on the slopes of Ragged Mountain, the Camden Snow Bowl is a wonderful little ski area boasting more than 20 runs and nearly 1,000 feetJack Williams Toboggan Chute. of vertical. Given its location among the coastal Camden Hills, it’s also significant for being the East Coast’s only ski resort that serves up views of the ocean from its trails, adding a big-time novelty factor.

Popular as the Snow Bowl is for skiing—and, in the summer off-season, for hiking and mountain biking—its wooden toboggan chute may well be its single most notable feature.

The first such chute was constructed the year the ski area opened: 1936. This original chute was replaced in 1954 and used for a decade before safety concerns shut it down. A community initiative mustered together by Jack Williams resulted in another rebuild in 1990, producing what’s lovingly called the Jack Williams Toboggan Chute: a 400-foot-long structure with a 70-foot rise built from some of the original timbers as well as pressure-treated wood. At this point, we'd say it ranks among the signature Camden, Maine landmarks.

A year after the Jack Williams Toboggan Chute was constructed, it hosted the very first U.S. National Toboggan Championships. The upcoming 2024 race, scheduled for February 2nd through the 4th, will be the 33rd annual edition, and you ought to consider taking it firsthand!

RIGHT: The Jack Williams Toboggan Chute. Image courtesy of Camden Snow Bowl.

Basics of the Camden Maine Toboggan Race at the Snow Bowl

More than 400 creatively named teams hailing from near and far typically compete in the Camden Snow Bowl’s U.S. National Toboggan Championships (aka the Toboggan Nationals), which are an all-ages affair open to everybody. Contestants—often very creatively garbed—race in two-, three-, or four-person teams. Winners are declared not only among those three divisions but also in various other categories, including for the Fastest Qualifying Run, the Best-Crafted Toboggan, the Oldest Team, and the Best Costume. 

Toboggan Team Picture. The Togga Boys, won an Honorable Mention for best Costume.Thousands of spectators attend the championships, thought to be the only officially organized race on a traditional wooden toboggan chute in the country—and quite possibly the world.

Toboggans often attain speeds of 40 to 45 miles per hour on the Jack Williams chute, and exit via a run-out zone that extends onto the ice of frozen Hosmer Pond. Sledders, in fact, sometimes zip all the way across the pond.

Every five years, the Camden Snow Bowl hosts the Worlds Race, a one-run, winner-takes-all competition featuring teams that must include at least one original member of past first-place Toboggan Nationals winners in the four-person division.

LEFT: A team pic at last season’s 2023 U.S. National Toboggan Championships. This team, The Togga Boys, won an Honorable Mention for Best Costume. Shown: Leo Brenninkmeyer, Ryan Conlon, Noah Benjamin and Alex Reisterer (Hudson, OH)

A Snapshot Backstory on the Toboggan

The classic wooden runnerless sled with the upturned lip known as a toboggan has deep roots in North America, with multiple indigenous cultures using such dog- or person-hauled sledges. As The Canadian Encyclopedia notes, such Native toboggans were often made from tamarack or birch wood.

Recreational tobogganing first became a thing in Canada, then spread into the northern U.S. in the late 19th century. It’s certainly a long-held tradition in Vacationland, and we’re proud to have this signature Maine toboggan race in our backyard!

Attend the 2024 U.S. Toboggan National Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl on a February Getaway to The Craignair Inn by the Sea

If you’re wondering what to do in Camden Maine on a winter stay close by at The Craignair Inn, well, we hope we’ve given you some ideas! Soak up all the fun of the U.S. National Toboggan Championships—heck, maybe even consider getting a team together and competing yourself!—while enjoying our inimitable hospitality along the shores of the St. George Peninsula, right across from Clark Island.

You’ll find yourself just a short drive from the Camden Snow Bowl (and other Camden attractions such as Camden Harbor, the Camden Opera House, and Camden Hills State Park), and meanwhile, get to relish some of the finest B&B accommodations on the MidCoast. Our historic guest rooms and suites provide an enviable launchpad for outdoor fun in the region, including cheering on the racers at the Toboggan Nationals.

Book your February stay at The Craignair Inn by the Sea today!