The storied history of tobogganing in the Alps really took off with the English and it was all downhill from there. And yet before the toboggan became a beloved cultural icon of the Bregenzerwald, it was first a new product rolled out by wainwrights whose livelihoods were under threat. The Johler brothers recount their success story of keeping an old tradition alive.
Tobogganing is totally in and nowhere is this more apparent than the Bregenzerwald. These days, there are well-maintained natural toboggan runs in almost every community, e.g., Alberschwende, Sulzberg, Bezau, Bizau, Au, Mellau or Warth. Typically, these thrilling tracks are located in close proximity to the ski lifts, feature an inn serving food and drink and are floodlight in the evening. We, the Johler Brothers, know them all like the back of our hands (and for good reason!): For more than a hundred years, our family has produced toboggans in our wainwright’s shop. So for us, going tobogganing is first and foremost a question of quality control for the products we craft. Like many other enthusiastic tobogganing fans, experiencing nature, the thrill of the wind during a quick descent, and the sense of community when tobogganing with others are top priorities. Our latest outing was in Bezau, which features a natural toboggan run that can be reached quickly and easily via the Bezau cable car. The track is approx. 3 km and drops 440 metres from Baumgarten to the Sonderdach. The view, which extends all the way to Lake Constance area when the weather is clear, is like a shot of courage before the descent. Before heading down, we split up into two teams: a family group for the children and a sporting group for the adults. In the adult group, speed is the name of the game, but safety is the top priority. You brake with your feet, so good shoes are a must. Steering is performed with hands and lead (which is why we recommend warm winter clothes). Safely navigating the slopes means paying close attention to the track ahead, which is why mutual consideration on the track is a must. Naturally, the quality of the toboggan is of great importance for a successful ride. Toboggans can be rented from the cable cars and inns, but it’s still worth buying your own. In our workshop, we repair toboggans first purchased back in the 1960s. Whenever we asked to refurbish an old model, there is usually a lot of talk about the past. And this is also where our story of our unique Bregenzerwald toboggans begins.