1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Coasting

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COASTING, usually called tobogganing (q.v.) in Europe, the sport of sliding down snow or ice-covered hills or artificial inclines upon hand-sleds, or sledges, provided with runners shod with iron or steel. It is uncertain whether the first American sleds were copied from the Indian toboggans, but no sled without runners was known in the United States before 1870, except to the woodsmen of the Canadian border. American laws have greatly restricted, and in most places prohibited, the practice, once common, of coasting on the highways; and the sport is mainly confined to open hills and artificial inclines or chutes. Two forms of hand-sled are usual in America, the original “clipper” type, built low with long, pointed sides, originally shod with iron but since 1850 with round steel runners; and the light, short “girls’ sled,” with high skeleton sides, usually flat shod. There is also the “double-runner,” or “bob-sled,” formed of two clipper sleds joined by a board and steered by ropes, a wheel or a cross-bar, and seating from four to ten persons.

In Scandinavia several kinds of sled are common, but that of the fishermen, by means of which they transport their catch over the frozen fjords, is the one used in coasting, a sport especially popular in the neighbourhood of Christiania, where there are courses nearly 3 m. in length. This sled is from 4 to 6 ft. long, with skeleton sides about 7 in. high, and generally holds three persons. It is steered by two long sticks trailing behind. On the ice the fisherman propels his sled by means of two short picks. The general Norwegian name for sledge is skijälker, the primitive form being a kind of toboggan provided with broad wooden runners resembling the ski (q.v.). In northern Sweden and Finland the commonest form of single sled is the Sparkstottinger, built high at the back, the coaster standing up and steering by means of two handles projecting from the sides.

Coasting in its highest development may be seen in Switzerland, at the fashionable winter resorts of the Engadine, where it is called tobogganing. The first regular races there were organized by John Addington Symonds, who instituted an annual contest for a challenge cup, open to all comers, over the steep post-road from Davos to Klosters, the finest natural coast in Switzerland, the sled used being the primitive native Schlittli or Handschlitten, a miniature copy of the ancient horse-sledge. Soon afterwards followed the construction of great artificial runs, the most famous being the “Cresta” at St Moritz, begun in 1884, which is about 1350 yds. in length, its dangerous curves banked up like those of a bicycle track. On this the annual “Grand National” championship is contested, the winner’s time being the shortest aggregate of three heats. In 1885 and the following year the native Schlittli remained in use, the rider sitting upright facing the goal, and steering either with the heels or with short picks. In 1887 the first American clipper sled was introduced by L. P. Child, who easily won the championship for that year on it. The sled now used by the contestants is a development of the American type, built of steel and skeleton in form. With it a speed of over 70 m. an hour has been attained. The coaster lies flat upon it and steers with his feet, shod with spiked shoes, to render braking easier, and helped with his gloved hands. The “double-runner” has also been introduced into Switzerland under the name of “bob-sleigh.”

See Ice Sports, in the Isthmian Library, London (1901); Tobogganing at St Moritz, by T. A. Cook (London, 1896).