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N.H. Man Hopes to Steer His Invention Toward a Successful Run

  • Holding onto a sleboggan, Maddy Chambers, 10, of Claremont, N.H., gets a push from sleboggan creator Bill Herrick, of Wilmot, N.H. at Arrowhead Recreation Area in Claremont, N.H., on Jan. 27, 2019. Ella Chambers, 11, left, her sister was also about to take her first spin with a selboggan. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Greg Gutgsell, of Wilmot, N.H., left, prepares for a practice run with creator of the sleboggan Bill Herrick, of Wilmot at Arrowhead Recreation Area in Claremont, N.H., on Jan. 27, 2019. Gutgsell has had his own sleboggan for about two weeks. He was going to try for a sleboggan world speed record later in the day. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ezra Cushing, of Keene, N.H., reacts after making his second attempt at the sleboggan world speed record at Arrowhead Recreation Area in Claremont, N.H., on Jan. 27, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, January 27, 2019

Claremont — Creating and marketing a patented product are both arduous tasks, but Bill Herrick is up for the challenge.

Herrick’s invention, the sleboggan, was on full display Sunday at Claremont’s Arrowhead Recreation Area as part of the first annual SnowKidz Snow Blast. The event, which also included discounted skiing, snowboarding and tubing tickets, gave participants a chance to experience a device that aides in the steering of various types of sleds.

“Except for the original curved wooden toboggan, we can steer most any sledding device,” said Herrick, who lives in Wilmot, N.H.

Patented in 2012, the sleboggan was originally derived from the upper third of a surfboard.

Sleboggans, which have two handles on top and three metal runners on the bottom, are held out in front by a prone rider. The toboggans provided by Herrick on Sunday were 66 inches long and fitted with a frontal cushion to provide padding for the upper chest and neck area.

Up-to-four-person drag races were on the docket at Arrowhead, but most of the proceedings — save a couple of world speed record attempts — were kids and adults informally trying out the sledding accessories.

The event was originally scheduled as part of the Eighth Annual FIS/World Snow Day on January 20, but the venue was shut down due to a blizzard; hence the makeup day with a slightly altered billing.

“You can’t really have World Snow Day when it’s not on World Snow Day,” Herrick said.

Herrick’s been facilitating the event at Arrowhead for the last several years. Along with free demos and drag races, his events have included multiple attempts at breaking the sleboggan world speed record.

Adult competitors, Greg Gutgsell and Ezra Cushing, attempted to break the record of 35 miles per hour held by Ian Fitzpatrick, but both were unsuccessful. Cushing’s fastest speed out of two runs was 31 mph and Gutgsell topped out at 28.

Cushing, who is a great nephew to Herrick, gained a good head of steam on his second run, but encountered some unwelcome powder in the vicinity of the radar gun.

“Walking up, it was like knee-deep right at the bottom of that first incline, so I didn’t really think it was going to work that well,” Cushing said. “But I walked up that far, so I kind of decided that I may as well do the couple extra feet and at least give it a go. … There’s too much snow (to break the record).”

Cushing, a Keene resident and recent graduate of Clarkson University, spoke to the responsiveness of sleboggans.

“It’s just awesome to be able to actually direct yourself,” Cushing said. “Because a lot of times sledding, you’re limited by a bunch of stuff that’s on the course. I jumped from snowboarding, so to be able to have that ability to carve and move across the slope, which (the sleboggan) gives you the ability to steer and do those things. It opens up a lot of places that normally you couldn’t sled on. … People who don’t necessarily snowboard or ski can do this and get a similar sensation of the gravity feel and carves and things like that.”

Herrick, who paid about $7,000 for his patent, said the concept hasn’t yet caught on as much as he had hoped. His company, known as Mr. Sleboggan, has sold between 65 and 70 devices — ranging in price from $89-$119 — both locally and in distant places such as Wisconsin, Washington and Canada.

Herrick originally started working on the sleboggan concept nearly a decade ago as a gift for his grandson.

Adam Boffey can be reached at boffeyadam@gmail.com.