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The History of Toboggans

The word toboggan reportedly comes from the Mi'kmaq word tobakun, meaning “sled.” Indigenous peoples in parts of what is now America (including Alaska) and Canada are credited as the first humans to make toboggans. Reportedly, the Inuit crafted theirs out of whale bone and used them to transport people and supplies across the snowy tundra. In the late 1800s, tobogganing became a popular pastime for adults. They would get dressed in their best clothes — men wore top hats and women wore formal dresses. Over time, the formality of tobogganing subsided and eventually, it became a popular leisure activity for children and families. The longest toboggan run is located in Grindelwald, Switzerland. It is accessed by a 25-minute gondola ride and two-hour hike. The run itself is 15 km long and lasts for roughly an hour. Interestingly, three Olympic sports were developed from tobogganing: bobsledding, luging, and skeleton racing. Today, tobogganing has less mainstream popularity than similar winter pastimes like sledding, but remains a strong tradition in many areas of the world.

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