Is it true that the UW used to have a giant toboggan slide down Observatory Hill?
Yes, and the UW had a toboggan club to go with it! Where Waters Residence Hall stands today, there once stood a 600-foot-long chute that began at Observatory Drive and extended well onto the frozen Lake Mendota. The first slide appeared in the late 1880s, and it went through several improvements throughout the years. In 1911, the toboggan club built a wooden run and a path of equal size that stretched alongside the run onto the lake. In the 1930s, thanks to a donation to Hoofers by the Class of 1933, the UW Toboggan Club built a concrete run with modern features such as lights and safety gates. For the low cost of 10 cents, students could saddle up in the automatic toboggan release and fly down the hill, reaching speeds faster than 60 miles per hour. When 1937 rolled around and construction began on Elizabeth Waters Hall — the third UW dormitory built for women — the toboggan run and club unfortunately became a thing of the past. Although there’s no formal organization these days for sledding along Observatory Drive, today’s students still participate in the tradition of borrowing trays from the dining halls to sled down the hill.