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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Toboggan Delight

Air Date: Week of

For turning the chills of winter into the thrills of sliding, some folks head to their local toboggan hill where the action is. And that's where producer Bob Carty went, to a little run near his home in Ottawa, Canada. There he found that while the means of going from top to bottom have changed, the fun and fear have not. He sent us this sound portrait.


CURWOOD: For folks in the chilly climes, winter can mean more than slippery sidewalks, cranky cars, and runny noses. With a dusting of snow the neighborhood toboggan hill is ready for action. And that's where producer Bob Carty went: to a little run near his home in Ottawa, where he found that while the means of going from the top to the bottom of the summit have changed, the fear and fun have not. He sent us this sound portrait.

(Children yelling and screaming, whooshing down snow.)

MAN: (Laughing) Tobogganing is one of the many entertainments we have in Canada to get through the winter and have fun with this cold, white stuff that we have to slog through most days of the week.

(Children, breathless.)

CHILD: Push me! Push me!

WOMAN: You're going to go by yourself?


WOMAN: Ready?


WOMAN: Here you go! Whoo!

(Children and adults shout)

CHILD 1: The hardest part, like the top of the hill, there's like --

CHILD 2: Icy.

CHILD 1: Icy. So that's the hardest part.

WOMAN: Most of the kids are into the GTs. It's 3 skis and it's got a steering wheel. They start at $30 and they run up to $80. Personally I wouldn't try this. (Laughs) Too fast. For me.

(Children screaming and yelling)

MAN: My favorite was the sleigh with the runners, and the preferable posture for running this thing was head first. And it was great because when you're head first you're (laughs) a lot closer to the action, that's for sure. Even when you tumble, even when you overturn, as long as you're not hurt, the snow is very forgiving. (Laughs)

CHILD 1: It's best when you wipe out, I find.

CHILD 2: I don't think so. I don't find wiping out is very fun. What's fun for me is going as far as I can, going over jumps. Sometimes you aim for the bumps, sometimes they just come right out of the blue and you hit them.

(Children screaming. A knock.)

WOMAN: That's your plastic. Plastic toboggans, which are fairly inexpensive. Plastic goes over anything. Once they crack, though, they're gone.

(More yelling. A child yells, "Major wipe out!" Another yells, "Nice one!")

CHILD: Best ride I ever had was on this really big hill. Because we went down this hill and we went into that, to the water over there, like where there is ice. It was really fun.

(More yelling. A child yells, "Oh my God!")

MAN: As a kid you're always looking for a good tobogganing hill. Good judgment wasn't exercised in choosing the hills, so there were often trees or brick walls at the bottom of them or something like that. The idea is to miss the trees, but we weren't all that successful in doing that. Toboggans seem to have homing devices in them that aim for the nearest trees.

(More yelling. One child is crying. Another says, "Told you." A man says, "Hold on, hold on." More crying and screaming. Man: "It's okay, it's my fault." Woman: "You're okay.")

MAN: I think parents want safety and kids want excitement, right? So there's a constant tension between those 2 factors.

MAN 2: Tuck in your feet, put on your tooks, here we go! Oh yeah! I feel the need, the need for speed! (Whooshing through snow)

MAN 3: To this day my buddies and I still will get dressed up late at night, drag our stuff out to the hill... well, at this point in life we can drive to the hill. And we'll go tobogganing down the hill hooting like we were 6 years old. So yeah, it's still a rush for me.

MAN 4: Whoo! (Laughs) Party line!

MAN 5: We're alive! (Laughs maniacally)

WOMAN: Crazy carpets, they slide very quickly. You can throw them in the back of your trunk with no problem. Two-forty-nine to $3. Then you're going into your steel toboggans (bangs on steel), and finally we have our wooden toboggans that come in various sizes. They do still buy them but they're very expensive compared to your plastic. It's $28.99 up to $45. That's what I had when I -- that's all they had when I was young. (Laughs) Just the wooden toboggans. They didn't have the plastic like they have today. When I see wooden toboggans I think it's winter. There's nothing like cuddling up on a back of a toboggan with your kid in front of you. (A child yells; whooshing through snow; children yelling and laughing)

CURWOOD: Our sound portrait of winter fun was produced by Bob Carty.



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