Adventure July 29, 2008

Snowbox Derby

Fun With Cardboard

The simplest objects often make the best toys and the quirkiest ideas can grow into local annual traditions. The Blaine County Recreation District’s Snow Box Derby is testament to that. The 2007 sixth annual derby will once again highlight the creative spirits of young and old alike as they build ingenious racing machines out of that oh-so-speedy material: cardboard. The snow box sleds resemble anything and everything from sheep to Formula One racecars. But the sled requirements are strict, allowing for only cardboard, glue, tape and paint to be used in sled construction. So the creative challenges, as well as the speed challenges, play a large role in sled design and consequently lead to some very entertaining creations.

Rotarun, located two and a half miles west of Hailey out Croy Canyon, is home to the annual event. With a lodge that serves food and hot chocolate and an outdoor barbecue on derby day, Rotarun provides a comfortable space to enjoy the derby with the entire family. It is a spectator’s event; with imaginatively designed sleds (some fast, some slow) and a few spectacular crashes, the action provides fun viewing for all ages. Still, for anyone who doesn’t want to watch the races all day, the ski hill remains open for skiers and snowboarders.

Competition categories are divided by age beginning with a pee-wee class for ages 5 to 8, a junior class for ages 9 to 12, and a teen class for 13 to 17 year-olds. There is also an adult category and a separate business category. Awards are given for fastest times in each category, most creative design and more. Blaine County Recreation District Director, Dave Keir, says, “Even when kids are struggling to get down the hill, winners are judged by the size of their smiles. We’re always thinking up new awards for best effort, attitude, et cetera.” Racers are allowed to have pushers give them a helpful shove at the start of the race, but then the racers are on their own. These snow boxes have to glide after that initial push because racers are not allowed to use their arms or legs to push themselves down the hill. Making it to the finish line is not as easy as it might seem—and herein lies much of the Snow Box Derby’s entertainment value.

While the Blaine County Recreation District runs the event, they have found tremendous volunteer support in the Kiwanis Club of Hailey, Idaho, and the Wood River Valley. An international community service club, the Kiwanis’ mission is: “We are going to change the world one community and one child at a time.” Since the Kiwanis Club’s focus is children, they are thrilled to be a part of an event in which so many children participate, Jim Spinelli, Kiwanis Club president, explained. The club members provide security and crowd control for the event as well as the metal detectors and screening to ensure that no snow boxes have metal in them. The Kiwanis Club plans to remain a vital part of the Snow Box Derby in 2007.

Whether you want to test your cardboard design skills or simply enjoy the races as a spectator, be assured, this event will keep you laughing. The emotional mixture of silliness and seriousness (because, yes, some racers are very serious about their designs and winning) makes for an award-winning day of drama, excitement and humor. Check out the Blaine County Recreation District’s website,, for more information on the date of the 2007 Snow Box Derby and rules for building snow boxes.

This article appears in the Winter 2007 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.