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Randy Sibbeston poses with a couple of plastic sleds that he designed himself and is now marketing in the NWT. - Derek Neary/NNSL photo

Toboggan ingenuity

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Dec 15/04) - When heading home on a snowmobile in -40C with a sled full of caribou in tow, the last thing anyone wants is for their equipment to fail.

Unfortunately, Randy Sibbeston has seen it happen. He's witnessed cheap plastic sleds come apart. He's watched wood and canvas models go through the ice, become waterlogged and then quickly freeze.

Not content to continue taking such chances, Sibbeston has designed what he hails as a solution to those durability and climatic limitations. His Sundog NT sleds, available in six- eight- and 10-foot lengths, are made of medium-density polyethylene, a plastic that is reportedly flexible to -70C. The larger models are reinforced with steel. Furthermore, the toboggans are buoyant. Considering the design, he is only half joking when he says a person could put a kicker on the sled in the summer and go out on the river.

"They have to be absolutely waterproof," Sibbeston said. "We're in the North. You can't fool around with these things."

Sibbeston had been building traditional wooden sleds for several years. To make them longer-lasting, he and others sometimes put a plastic lining on the bottom. Unable to deny the practical properties that make plastic common in everyday life, he decided to take it to the next level by designing a plastic toboggan.

He brought back 30 sleds from the first production run at a roto-moulding plant outside Edmonton. He's aiming to get his creation in retail outlets across the North.

Level of functionality

"I was trying to attain a high level of functionality and reliability," said Sibbeston, who is a harvester. "For me to be able to have something that I can count on and treat roughly, that's the bottom line. Basically it's one less thing to worry about in the bush."

Also an artist who produces paintings and sculptures, Sibbeston is accustomed to seeing a project through from the concept phase to the finished product.

"These (sleds) have turned out exactly the way that I planned them," he said. "There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from having an idea, doing some drawings and developing the product. It does make a huge difference."