The 31st annual U.S. National Toboggan Championships, slated to slide down the frozen 400-foot wooden chute Friday through Sunday, Feb. 5-7, 2021, officially have been postponed to 2022.

The official announcement of the event's cancellation came at the beginning of the Camden Select Board's virtual meeting on Tuesday night, Dec. 15. The announcement and explanation from Holly Anderson, the event's co-chair, came during the public comment on non-agenda items.

The event, a significant fundraiser for the Camden Snow Bowl, the home base of the popular races' operations, became yet another casualty of a pandemic that continues to rear its ugly head nearly a year after it surfaced.

Like clockwork, the toboggan races were held decade after decade despite challenging weather, from warm temperatures to blizzards, but always managed to have the show go on before COVID-19 sidelined the event, as it had hundreds of other Midcoast events during its grip on the Midcoast.

Toboggan committee members hoped to hold a modified version of the event that would meet state safety mandates and restrictions during COVID-19.

In fact, for the past three months, the organizing committee met, working to formulate a plan that could allow them to safely hold the event.

"We had developed a plan to run half the number of teams, with 25 percent of the number of racers and no spectators," said Stuart Young, committee co-chair. Young also is the event's chute master.

"And while we felt these numbers would be manageable in terms of adhering to Maine's COVID-19 mandates, the rise and continued high numbers of infections makes it impossible to assure a safe event," said Anderson.

The Toboggan Nationals were conceived in 1991 as a mid-winter lark and a way to celebrate the rebuilding of the historic 400-foot-long wood toboggan chute, which was originally constructed by community volunteers in the 1930s. The event has grown to become an important economic engine for the Midcoast, bringing thousands of racers and spectators to town during the winter season.

The 2022 event is planned for Friday through Sunday, Feb. 11-13.

Anderson said the committee is saddened the event has been impacted by the pandemic, like so many in Maine, and across the country.

"We know this tough decision is the right one," Anderson said.

The U.S. National Toboggan Championships annually are held in February at the Camden Snow Bowl. For 30 years, seemingly without fail, the event has dealt with weather-related concerns. One year it was a blizzard that enveloped New England in whiteout conditions and forced the event to condense to a single day of racing.

Other years racers have endured gale-force winds and pouring rain, the former that made for frigid temperatures, the latter that turned the chute exit into a cold flume ride.

"We have also dealt with warm-temperature years that, in all but one case, turned around in the final days before the event to make the ice on Hosmer Pond safe enough to race on," Anderson said.

One year, in which the ice was deemed not safe enough, Snow Bowl staff and volunteers rallied to plow snow and make a chute on the hill. The event was able to go on, complete with winning times and trophy awards.

Revenues from the annual fundraiser, as much as $90,000 in recent years, has benefited the municipally-owned and -operated Snow Bowl, a vibrant ski area in winter and busy recreation area during the off-season.

The toboggan event usually includes hundreds of racers, who trek to the area from around the world (and most states in the country), dressed in unique, colorful, often flamboyant costumes.

The racers form two-, three- and four-person teams. There are other divisions and prizes, with one of the most fun aspects of the weekend racers being the costume parade through Tobogganville.

The team names also are well-thought out, humorous and often included a play on words.

Anderson said at Tuesday night's meeting usually 3,000 to 4,000 spectators attend the toboggan races when the weather is good.

She said the committee looked to reduce the number of teams and racers to a total of 400 racers on site, and divide them in pods of 50 people via scheduling, with the top 50 times in the finals on Sunday, with no spectators allowed, as Snow Bowl management thought it would be too difficult to control spectators and social distancing.

Anderson explained that even 400 racers on site would have required considerable manpower, and there would be the problem of those people congregating. Ultimately, that few people at $35 per racer meant the finances to hold the event did not add up, she said.

Anderson said she emailed the state for guidance due to the recent spikes in Midcoast coronavirus cases, but did not hear back from the person.

Additionally, the Snow Bowl does not have jurisdiction over Hosmer Pond and trying to manage that space would not be worth it, she said.

However, the toboggan chute at the Snow Bowl will be open this winter as soon as the ice on the pond is safe. At that time, there will be plans for how to social distance when using that area of the Ragged Mountain complex.

Susan Mustapich of The Camden Herald contributed to this story.