For proof that Thomas Williams never grew up, all you have to do is follow the screams of delight that start in his backyard and loop around the front, as he and his 15 children (that’s right, 15) set Utah suburban speed records on their 300-foot homemade luge.
Thomas, 45 (although his wife, Christine, sometimes pegs him as 12), has built his kids a personal luge run every year for 15 years (“One for each child,” he jokes), with this year’s creation topping them all. The slick run includes an 18-foot castle and stomach-lurching first drop, tilted corner turns and thousands of gallons of snow “stolen” from five neighbors’ yards.
“It’s the biggest one ever — I don’t know how we’ll beat it next year,” Thomas, a small business owner from South Jordan, Utah, tells PEOPLE. “Every year, I tell my kids, ‘We’re never doing this again,’ but somehow, here we are again. It gets a little old, hauling all that snow, but wow — what a wicked ride.'”
This year’s luge took two weeks to finish after a huge Christmas Day snowstorm left no doubt in the Williams’ household that it was time to get busy.
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“We love spending time making the luge with our dad each year — it was scary fast this year,” Daniel, 15, tells PEOPLE. “In one word, it’s epic!”
“I never thought that he’d be able to make it wrap around our whole yard and through the gate and through the front yard, all the way to the street,” adds Angel, 12. “My dad is a lot of fun. It’s been awesome.”
All of the Williams’ children have grown up on toboggans, ever since their father built his first stretch of icy track when the oldest boys were 4 and 5.
“We had a backyard without a lot of slope to it,” recalls Thomas, “and they wanted to go sledding. So I built a little slide. After that it became a tradition and before I knew it, we had ourselves a pretty wild luge.”
This year, Christine Williams, 41, felt exhausted just watching her husband and children haul garbage cans full of snow from neighbors’ houses after their own yard had been stripped of the white stuff.
“They spent days shoveling snow out of those cans, mounding it up, making the castle and track, then filling milk jugs with water and turning everything to ice,” she tells PEOPLE. “Once it was done, we had the entire neighborhood over here, riding down it. It’s always a blast.”
The trip down the track this year takes about 30 seconds from start to finish, says Thomas, who hopes to make the luge long enough next year to end where it started.
“Hop off and hop on again, then ride until it melts,” he says. “What could be better than that?”