2017-01-16 / Front Page

Sleboggans a big hit at World Snow Day

Miriam Sasa of Grantham tries a prototype sleboggan during World Snow Day events at Arrowhead Recreation Area in Claremont on Sunday, Jan. 15. — TORY JONESMiriam Sasa of Grantham tries a prototype sleboggan during World Snow Day events at Arrowhead Recreation Area in Claremont on Sunday, Jan. 15. — TORY JONESCLAREMONT — Sleboggan enthusiasts of all ages gathered on Sunday, Jan. 15 at Arrowhead Recreation Center to try out the locally-invented snowsport boards, part of Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) World Snow Day events at the snow hill and throughout the world.

Miriam and Nadya Sasa of Grantham and Ali Osman of Eastman were among dozens of children and adults slebogganing down a snow-packed trail Sunday morning, guided by Snow Day volunteers who steered them down a trail.

The sleboggans appeared to be a big hit, with some participants walking back up to the top to try it themselves after only one outing with a volunteer at the helm.

“It was so fun,” Nadya Sasa, 13, said after the toboggan came to a stop at the bottom of the hill. “It was awesome!” her friend Ali added, grinning.

Her sister Miriam Sasa had a unique perspective, one that shows how the Sleboggan works when the rider is laying stomach-down and steering down a snowy slope.

“I felt like a penguin!” she said.

A volunteer at the top of the run designed for Sunday’s events said visitors of all ages seemed to be learning how to use it very quickly.

A sleboggan is the registered trade name of a device that people can use to steer a toboggan. It was invented by Wilmot, New Hampshire resident Bill Herrick, who was at the Snow Day events on Sunday showing visitors how to use them.

Herrick said he first thought of the idea about six years ago, when his grandson was about 1 ½ years old. He had several acres of land on his property and wanted to create a long trail through the woods that he could take his grandson sledding on. The first time, however, it didn’t work — it was too difficult to navigate the 66-inch toboggan because a regular toboggan has no mechanism for steering.

“We couldn’t turn,” he said.

He tried again the next winter, and the next, he said. After two years of working on concepts, he cut off the top third of a surfboard, added handles and runners, devised a way to tether it to a toboggan with tow loops and snap bits so a user could steer on turns, and the sleboggan was born. Herrick patented his design, and now offers them on his Mr. Sleboggan, Inc.  website, www.sleboggan.com.

When using the Sleboggan with other toboggans attached behind it, the “slebogganer” would lay down in the front toboggan to steer, and others can lay or sit on the middle and rear sleds.

“Everybody loves it,” Herrick said.

Herrick said he has named all of his sleboggan designs after his grandchildren. They have included the “Link I,” a prototype named after his first grandson Lincoln; the Link II, the Daphne, the Griffin, and a child-size sleboggan he has dubbed the Ayla. More designs may be in production in the future, he said.

Herrick developed a 2,000-foot sleboggan run in 2011, where people could try out the new sports equipment. He offered sleboggan runs on World Snow Day each year since then.

This is his third year the event has been held at Arrowhead, because he wanted to offer runs at a location that had equipment to make snow, and had more room for runs, he said.

The sleboggan world record of 35 mph was attained by Ian Fitzpatrick two years ago, on Feb. 22, 2015 at Arrowhead, Herrick said. The record before that was 32 mph, which P.J. Lovely reached on Feb. 9, 2014.

Herrick said organizers did not attempt a new record this year due to weather conditions creating a lack of snow on the upper level at Arrowhead.

The World Snow Day events, which ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., also included a race for participants ages 4-14, and another for those age 15 and older.

For the Sleboggan Cross Race for age 4-14, first place went to Rebecca (no last name give), age 10; second place went to Bruce Wright III, age 11, and third place went to Nadya Sasa, 13.

In the 15-and-older division, winners included Will Moran in first place, Robin Fellows in second, and Tyler Sullivan in third.

Winners received gold, silver and bronze medals for first, second and third place, respectively.

Herrick plans to show his sleboggans on Sunday, Jan. 22 at Runnings in Claremont, in a pop-up retail shop, for the first time in a large retail store.

He will also have sleboggans at the Newport Winter Carnival on Saturday, Feb. 11 on a golf course on Unity Road.

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