Tobogganing is the sport of coasting down a snow-covered slope or specially prepared track on a flat, runnerless sled called a toboggan. The vehicle was first used by the North American Indians for hauling supplies and game over the snow, and it serves the same purpose for campers and hunters today. In addition, many participants in winter sports use it for recreation.
Indians made the first toboggans of skins, which they attached to a frame. Later, two or three boards lashed together served as a base, with the front end curled up and backward, forming a "hood." A low railing around the sides and back helped keep the goods on the base. Toboggans were narrow so that they could be dragged through the forest by hand or by dogs.
The modern toboggan is constructed of hard, polished woods, and the boards are held together by crosspieces on the nongliding surface. A hand rope around the sides and back helps riders stay on the vehicle. Toboggans vary from 3 to 8 feet (0.91-2.43 meters) in length and from 1 1/2 to 4 feet (0.45-1.21 meters) in width. The longest toboggan will support 4 or 5 riders seated one behind the other, with knees bent and feet straddling the rider ahead. The front rider braces his feet against the hood.
To keep the vehicle on a course without a prepared track or run, the rear rider must guide the toboggan by trailing a foot on one side or the other. Runs were first provided by resorts and country clubs late in the 19th century, the length depending on the terrain available. Rivalry in speed led to tobogganing competitions.