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That’s one cool sled… Let’s check out the LUGE!

Submitted by on November 12, 2012 – 4:29 pmNo Comment

Featured in our November-December 2012 Issue!


One of the oldest winter sports, and possibly the most dangerous, is luge. Athletes lay down on their back on a tiny sled with their feet stretched out in front of them. The sliders race down a slippery ice track, called a “spiral”, at tremendous speeds with no brakes, using careful body movements and their calves to steer. The track consists of a series of curves and stretches and the slider must hurtle themselves down as fast as possible towards the finish line. Sometimes athletes are experiencing gravitational forces of 4 or 5G around some curves. Talk about an adrenaline rush!

The word luge comes from the French word for “sled”. It is believed that its origins date back to the 16th century. The first course was built in 1879 in Davos, Switzerland. The first international sled competition was held in 1883. In 1955, the first World Championships took place on an artificial track in Oslo, Norway.

The Fédération Internationale de Luge de Course (FIL) aka International Luge Federation was founded in 1957. The FIL is authorized to set rules for luge at the international level. Website: http://www.fil-luge.org

Luge became an Olympic sport in 1964 at the Innsbruck (Austria) Winter Games. The competition consists of men’s singles, women’s singles and a doubles event. There are three Olympic sliding sports: luge, bobsleigh and skeleton. Luge is the fastest and most dangerous. The athletes reach speeds of 140 km per hour (87 mph). The Guinness World Record is held by Tony Benshoof of the United States who reached a speed of 139.9 km/h (86.93 mph).

One of the all-time greats in the luge event is a German athlete named Georg Hackl. Hackl won gold three times consecutively at the following Olympic games: (1) Lillehammer (Norway) in 1994, (2) Nagano (Japan) in 1998, and (3) Salt Lake City (USA) in 2002.

Equipement Rundown

The Sled

• A luge sled consists of two runners, a seat and a pair of handles for the rider to hold.

• The two steel runners, also known as steels, are the only part of the sled that touches the surface of the ice. These blades are regarded as the single most important part of the luge sled. The blades are constantly being polished and adjusted, by using sanders and files, to make them run fast on different ice conditions and tracks.

• The seat rests on two bridges connecting the runners and is made of a fiber glass pod.

• The slider lies on the molded pod, which is designed specifically to match the slider’s body contours.

• The slider steers by applying pressure with his/her foot onto the runners.

• In competition, there are weight limits for the sleds: for singles it is 23 kilograms, and for doubles it is 27 kilograms.

• As you can imagine, luge sleds are highly specialized pieces of equipment. There are only a few manufacturers around the world that sell sleds. Most competitive teams will construct their own sleds for use by their National Team athletes.

Helmets with face shields

It is mandatory for sliders to wear a helmet in international competition. The helmet is made of a kevlar/fiberglass shell with foam padding. It provides a great deal of protection if there is an accident on the track. The helmets are also extremely lightweight. The face shield is attached to the front of the helmet. It is made of a polycarbonate material that is practically shatter proof. The face shield may also help protect the athletes from the extreme cold temperatures and wind that they experience going down the track.


Sliders wear special shoes with zippers, so that their foot is straightened out (pointed toes) when the zipper is closed. These racing shoes, also called the “booties”, are lightweight and aerodynamic. They weigh about 3.9 ounces each, and they have a smooth outer sole. By the way, one of the major manufacturers of luge booties is Adidas.

Spiked Gloves

Sliders wear gloves that are spiked at the fingertips or knuckles to help with the start and paddling motion as they accelerate onto the track. Racing gloves tend to be tight and form fitting to the athletes hand. They are usually made of leather or a relatively thin material that doesn’t stretch. The specifications for the spikes: they may be a maximum of 4mm (.157 inches) long and can be attached to the finger tips or the knuckles, based on personal preference.

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