Toboggans have been the means for overland transportation for much of the Canadian North for centuries. Both hand sleds made with a curved nose, and the word "toboggan" itself, stem from Native American origin. Yet, there was also a strong European influence on the evolution of toboggans, particularly for larger freighting sleds. With the entry of the Hudson Bay company in the 1600's, sawed lumber came into the picture. This enabled a stronger and higher functioning sled and ski to be made, when compared to the crude hand sleds made of birch bark, animal hides, and unsawn wood. A better sled that could haul more furs was a technology advancement that fueled the great fur industry of the time.
Since then, the toboggan was utilized and continued to evolve until the latter half of the 20th century. At this time a perfect storm happened and the fur industry driving the need for toboggans was hit hard. From our best estimates it seems that the two key happenings causing this decline were PETA's successful anti-fur marketing campaign and the stock market crash in the 1980's. This resulted in the vanishing of traditional toboggan makers who were once all over Northern Canada.
Further market influence came from the increase of global consumerism. Low cost, high volume man-made materials started to flood the market in most industries, including that of winter cargo sleds. Plastics were cheap, easy to stack and ship, and required no craftsmanship to produce. Fiberglass and UHMW also made their way to the scene.
However, some industries can't be disrupted with technology advancement. There are some fundamental properties of an oak board toboggan that alternative materials haven't been able to reproduce:
- Flexibility and Twisting
- Slow Curl Design
- Longevity - not always the goal of our competitors. We share the sentiment of Patagonia in this area. We don't look for repeat buyers, unless they want a different size toboggan or to gift a toboggan to a friend. In most instances, a well taken care of wooden toboggan cargo sled will be something you pass down to your children.
My father has done an incredible job doing the work to get a foothold in the toboggan belt (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories) over the past 23 years. We are working with key partners to optimize our distribution to these areas who understand from real North experience the value of our wood toboggans. Beyond these key areas there are others in the great North that we are committed to in establishing a distribution base. Our long time clients have confirmed that there is nothing that withstands the roughest climates of the North like a wooden toboggan and we are committed to spreading the word.
We call this the Toboggan Revival.