Taking it all down a slide: The concrete toboggan run attracts hundreds of engineering students

A man wearing a back jacket and ski goggles sits on a snowboard on a ski slope.
“It is an honor to host the Great Northern Concrete Ski Race in Atlantic Canada for the first time,” says Mark Dixon, General Manager of White Hills Ski Resort. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

A small ski resort located in Clarenville on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula welcomed nearly 400 engineering students from 16 schools across Canada over the weekend — gathering to race skis made of concrete.

Saturday’s 50th annual Great Northern Concrete Ski Race at White Hills Resort was the first held in Atlantic Canada. Mark Dixon, the resort’s general manager, called it an “honor.”

“Seeing students here is really unique,” ​​he said. “Most of them have never been to Newfoundland and Labrador. Most of them have certainly never been to White Hills Resort before, so they’re excited.”

Each competing team designs and builds a sled with concrete surfaces, a safety cage, and a mechanical steering and braking system.

Each sled must weigh less than 350 pounds — just under 160 kilograms — and carry five competitors.

A group of eight people dressed in red are standing around a car-shaped sleigh.
The Memorial University ski team lost a ski while going down the slope, but their spirits were high. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

“It’s really a great atmosphere,” Dixon said as he looked at the snow-covered hills, the scattered sleds and the students milling around.

One of those sleds belongs to a team from Memorial University. Team captain Riley Burt says it was nerve-racking to be at the top of the hill, crammed inside the sled with four of his friends, ready to race to the bottom.

“I was sweating bullets,” he said with a laugh.

watched Hundreds of students gather for Canada’s largest student engineering competition:

NL hosts Atlantic Canada’s first concrete toboggan race

Skis and snowboards weren’t the only things sliding down the slopes at White Hills Resort in Clarenville on Saturday. Concrete sleds were also racing down the ridge, the first of their kind in Atlantic Canada. CBC’s Jessica Singer turns to the 50th Great Concrete Toboggan Race.

Shailene Hurtubise, MUN’s other co-captain, was stationed at the braking system. If you hit the brakes too early, the team will be disqualified.

“It’s tense and everyone’s a little nervous, a little excited,” she said.

“I don’t even think anything could make me less excited,” she said. “Even if we had an accident, (if) we weren’t allowed to race, it doesn’t take away any of the excitement.”

A man wearing a t-shirt and winter hat standing on the ski slope.
The power on the slopes is electric, says Regan Hogan, who competed in the Great Northern Concrete Ski Race as a mechanical engineering student and now helps organize the event. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

Team MUN crossed the finish line but their sled couldn’t make it to the finish line. During the bumpy ride down the slope, the team lost one of their concrete sleds. Not to be deterred, the group sneaked inside the structure to cross the finish line.

Regan Hogan competed in the race in 2018 while he was a student in MUN’s mechanical engineering program. He now helps organize the event, and said the energy on the hills on the weekend was “electric.”

Not only do teams score points from the race, there is a robust scoring system in place, Hogan said.

“There are different categories that are taken into consideration. Race day is one of them, brake design, steering design. Spirit is a big element,” he said. “Whoever has the most fun gets some points.”

Dixon said the visiting engineers showed up at a great time.

“I think they see the best of our part of the world, especially with the sun shining like this.”

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