Cardboard and duct tape sled racing represent the best of both worlds for many.
The second annual Blackwater Falls State Park event features the simplistic ingenuity necessary to construct a sled using only basic materials. However, participants can then take advantage of the country's largest "magic carpet ride" conveyor back to the top of the 1,300-foot sled run. And next year's racing will have the added benefit of snow making equipment.
Paulita Cousin, activities coordinator for the park, says the event is gaining momentum. This season's race is scheduled Feb. 22.
"Basically, it's to let people get outside, enjoy nature and have fun," said Cousin, who doubles as staff naturalist at Blackwater Falls. "We started this to encourage people to use their imagination in a high-tech world. In an era of pre-fab equipment, this relies on creativity and the basic handyman tools. I like to plan events that bring families together."
It was mission accomplished for the inaugural event that attracted approximately 80 spectators and a field of 27 sleds. Entrants included parents, siblings, friends and a Boy Scout Troop.
"We had everything from Mickey and Minnie Mouse and a tank design to a standard sheet of cardboard," she said of the entrants who gathered from as far away as Michigan.
The sleds, which carry a $1 entry fee, must be constructed of corrugated cardboard and may not be more than 50 percent duct tape. They must be free of safety hazards including sharp edges or pointy objects, glue or resin. Paint is allowed, as long as it's for decorative purposes only. The sleds must be able to withstand the descent down the park's run. To qualify as a finisher, racers must be on (or in) the sled when crossing the finish line.
"No plastics or other materials are allowed," said Cousin, who serves as the sled inspector prior to the race starting. "Another guideline and most important is to have fun."
Three awards are presented. The "Tip Top" prize is given to the most visually appealing sled. "Speed" is based on the best downhill time. "Spirit" goes to the entrant demonstrating the best "for the fun of it" attitude.
"We had a group last year that brought extra sleds," she said. "A few of the other sleds did not meet the safety requirements, so they let them use their extra sleds and they were cheering everyone on."
Cousin is expecting several of the teams to return as well as first-time entrants.
"We received a lot of positive feedback and we've been getting a lot of inquiries," she said. "It's kind of an unusual event."
In addition to the beautiful waterfalls, the park offers 10 miles of trails for cross country skiing and a quarter-mile sledding hill. A full-service cross country ski center offers lessons and equipment rental.