My introduction to toboggan making and the Traditional Toboggans and Sleds of Northern Canada began nearly two years before I met Milton Chaboyer of Thompson, MB. At that time I was quite fascinated with these toboggans and the wide distribution across Northern Canada.
It was a world that I was not familiar with and I was quite attracted to the lifestyles of the people using these sleighs. That was twenty two years ago.
The first few years I was quite focused on making traditional or “Dog Toboggans” , the wooden Freight Sleds, and the customers up North and their way of life…
After we put up our first website we started selling more and more in the Southern Provinces and the US. We also started to get calls from folks looking for a recreational toboggan like they had when they were kids. “I can’t find a decent toboggan anywhere” was a common remark. My response was “I’m sorry, we don’t have such a toboggan”.
Finally, after this had gone on for some time and one particular call from another customer looking for a downhill sleigh, the missed opportunity dawned on me, asking myself “why not?” It quickly became very obvious that while I had been striving to build accounts and sales in the traditional Northern people, here is a ready and overlooked market.
As is often the case that time of year during the height of the season, I was pretty swamped keeping up in the shop. When things slowed down I got serious about designing a recreational toboggan for the family, similar to the one we had growing up in Northern MN. Well maybe not…recreational toboggans had been made to resemble the original hunting and trapping toboggans of Canada, but they were not the same. The curls were low and usually bent in more of a true circle. The boards or slats used were usually ¼” thick or less and the toboggan was held together with wood screws or even staples. The tie around rope was either threaded through holes bored in the crosspieces or through leather loops attached to the tops of the crosspieces.
I was well aware that to be successful in establishing relationships in the North we had to make toboggans of the highest quality. On that land and in that lifestyle inferior products soon show there weakness and are soon undesirable…survival of the fittest!
I decided if we were going to enter the recreational toboggan market we would enter at the top of the food chain. Since the 12’ three board dog toboggan was perhaps our primary toboggan at that time, it was decided to scale down this toboggan to fit the recreational toboggan market. We would keep our product line pure with highest quality toboggans. The Downhill Toboggan is built just like our traditional toboggan with the exception of size and thickness of the wood used.
Our Downhill Toboggan is of heirloom quality. It performs exceptionally in downhill coasting as well as for towing with snow mobile or ATV. We advertise for “light” towing, but we are comparing to our Traditional Toboggans that haul tremendous loads for thousands of kilometers in a winter up north.
Over the years customers have shared that they use their Downhill for towing behind a snowmobile with kids or spouses riding on the toboggan, at speeds or conditions that I would find quite dangerous… Speeds and conditions that would destroy most of the recreational toboggans available today. I encourage people to use common sense, to assess the situation and conditions and play safe!
I’ll note that these toboggans are still holding up just fine and are none-the-worse for the wear!