Safety expert questions validity of toboggan bans


It seems like every winter there’s a new municipality that bans tobogganing, and one safety expert is questioning why.

“When I look at sport and recreation activities, I look at inpatient hospitalization rate compared to the number of emergency visits… and I would say that sledding and tobogganing is a relatively low risk activity,” Dr. Don Voaklander, the director of the Injury Prevention Centre at the University of Alberta, told an Edmonton radio station.

And, as he points out, there are plenty of winter activities that are much more risky.

Although toboggan bans and restrictions appear to be growing, statistics from Alberta Health Services indicate that they might be unfounded. In 2013, nearly 3,000 emergency room visits were prompted by snowboarding accidents, compared to 540 that were the result of sledding or tobogganing.

Voaklander’s comments come just a couple of weeks after two popular toboggan hills in Jasper, Alberta, were closed due to safety concerns.

According to a report by Global News, the town explained that the two hills are a municipal liability, since both are close to roads, and there’s risk that someone could slide out in front of a car.

But locals who use the hill don’t see the issue.

“As far as I’ve heard from other parents, grandparents, long-term residents and peers who grew up on the hill, no one has ever been hurt or reached the road on Church Hill,” said Jasper resident Christina Petluk-Byrd.

Snape’s Hill also leads to a road, but Petluk-Byrd told reporters that people generally construct a barrier of snow at the bottom.

She launched a petition so that her husband and stepson could continue to use Church Hill and she quickly received hundreds of signatures from locals of the small community.

“This is Jasper! We are an outdoor sport town. We are a ski town, a mountain town; our kids grow up in the outdoors,” she told Global. “It makes me sad to think the children are being limited to their play. Kids learn consequences and critical thinking through play.”