Tools of the Trade

The Sun Valley Rescue Toboggan revolutionized mountain rescue when they were first used in 1947. The toboggans were hand crafted from steel with carefully shaped hickory staves. While the Sun Valley toboggan originated in Sun Valley, Idaho their iconic shape, proven design and practicality was familiar to patrollers in Colorado who used them on a regular basis.

Nelson Bennett, a former Sun Valley Ski Patrol director, created an early version of the toboggan used to transport patients down the mountain. During World War II, Bennett was drafted to Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division where he served in Italy during the war.

After the War he returned to Sun Valley and continued his lifelong career in mountain rescue.

The Sun Valley Rescue Toboggan was the first modern toboggan and introduced design elements familiar to patrollers today including a tail rope, rear skegs and a drop chain.

A removable litter was used for patient transport and could be could be secured to the toboggan with one simple lever. Removable handles allowed the toboggans to be carried up chairlifts in three portions with the litter, toboggan and handles separate.

While practical the toboggans were heavy. When loaded with splinting material or blankets the steel and hickory toboggans weighed over 200 pounds before they were loaded with a patient.

The Sun Valley became standard rescue equipment at many mountains across the west during the 1950’s and 60’s including areas in Colorado. As construction materials changed toboggans became lighter but continued to use many elements introduced with Bennett’s design.

-John Cameron

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