Oct. 12, 2016

Kids' Snow Facts #1 - Toques and Toboggans

The awesome kids from Kids Space Facts are back! Eliot (12), Owen (10), and Audrey (7) helped find us some awesome facts about snow and all that goes with it! 


In Canada, tuque (sometime spelled toque) is the common name for a knitted winter hat or watch cap (called a beanie in other parts of the world). The name is said to have originated with the Coureurs de Bois, French and Metis fur traders, who kept their woollen nightcaps on for warmth during cold winter days. Other English-speaking countries call it a beanie, watch cap or stocking cap. 

The terms tuque and toque are unique to Canada and northern areas of the United States close to the Canadian border.


The tradition of the toboggan goes back to the roots of how both Aboriginal peoples and early settlers survived in this vast and difficult country.

Making a Toboggan

Long before the Europeans arrived and turned various forms of sledding into Olympic sports, Canada’s First Peoples used handcrafted toboggans to transport people and goods across the snowy tundra of Canada’s Far North. The Canadian Encyclopedia states that these devices “were constructed of two or more thin boards of larch or birch wood, secured to one another by crossbars, with the boards turned up at the front. The wood was bent while still green or wet, then held in position by lashing until the wood dried...”

Toboggans were often long—7 to 10 feet—but narrow, perhaps only 1 foot wide, pulled by a man or woman wearing a chest harness or, if available, sled dogs. The significance of the width was that a narrow sleigh could fit easily inside a snowshoe trail. 

What's in a Name?

The word “toboggan” likely originates from the word for sled by the Mi’kmaq (tobâkun) and/or Abenaki (udãbãgan). French Canadians adopted the word in the early 1800s, but spelled it “tabaganne.”

Along with the name, the early European settlers adopted the use of toboggans for transport, hunting and fur trading ventures, but they soon realized it could be used for recreation as well. It became a popular sport in the late 1800s. 

Pro Tobogganing

This recreational past-time has also evolved into serious competitive sports. Three modern Olympic sports were born out of downhill tobogganing: bobsledding, luging and skeleton racing.

January's the perfect time to get out and enjoy the snow! Join us in Jasper National Park for skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and more!

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