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Snow sleds home > Sledding information center > Luge


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LugeThe luge as a winter activity first began in the Swiss Alps. People would practise on logging roads which led from the hills down to the villages. The sport of recreational luge was first organized in 1883, with the first international competition held in Davos, Switzerland. In that first international event, there were a mere 21 riders from Australia, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. It was on a 4 km piece of road from St. Wolfgang to Klosters. Then in 1964, luge became an Olympic sport at the Innsbruck, Astria games.

Throughout its development, the sport of luge branched into two disciplines.

  1. Kuntsbahn (German for Artificial Track) is the present day Olympic Style. Composed of high bank turns and speeds of 60-90 mph.
  2. Naturbahn (German for Natural Track) retains the look of its origins. The turns are flatter and luge athletes use body movements that can be seen by the spectators.

Most of the language and terms involved with in this activity are from the German language, but the U.S. adopted the French word for sled, Luge, to name the sport itself.

Here is a thorough glossary of luge language:

Block: Part of the start trajectory in which the sled is rocked forward.
Bootie: The racing shoe worn by sliders. The bootie enhances the slider's aerodynamics and is smooth in shape with no treads on the soles. It weighs only 3.9 ounces, making it easier for the sliders to hold up their feet against the G-forces encountered going down the track.
Bridge: The steel connecting pieces at the front and the back of the sled. The bridge sits between the two runners and holds the aerodynamic racing shell.
Compression: Part of the start motion in which the athlete draws the sled back immediately before the forward pull. The slider's knees spread, and his or her head is drawn between the legs.
Crank: To apply a concerted amount of steering pressure.
Diamond Paste: A paste, which contains diamond particles, used by sliders to polish the sled's steel runners to reduce friction with the ice.
FIL: The Fédération Internationale de Luge de course (The International Luge Federation), the international governing body for luge.
G-Force: The gravitational force that holds both the sled and the athlete against the wall on a banked turn.
Kriesel: German word for a toy top. In luge, the term describes a turn on the track which curves back under itself. It is also used to describe a curve of 360 degrees or more.
Kufen: German word for a fibreglass or wood runner.
Kunstbahn: German term for an artificially refrigerated luge track.
Labryinth: A series of three or more curves, usually short, with little to no straightaway between them.
Line: The trajectory the sled makes down the course.
Lose your head: The term applied to a slider who cannot keep his or her head up through a high G-force turn.
Luge: French word for sled or toboggan.
Omega Curve: A set of three large curves that are connected. From above, the shape resembles the Greek letter omega.
Paddle: The pushing motion after the start in which sliders use spiked gloves to dig into the ice surface to propel themselves forward.
Pod: The shell attached to the bottom of the racing sled on which the slider sits.
Renrodel: German word for racing sled.
Roll: Term to describe steering using shoulder pressure and a slight turning of the head.
S-curve: Two connected turns that travel in alternate directions.
Slider: A term for an athlete in sliding sports, like bobsleigh, luge or skeleton.
Spike: Tips that are placed on the fingertips or knuckles of gloves to help the slider paddle to generate speed in the start.
Spritz: To optimize the track's speed by spraying a fine mist of water over the ice.
Steels: Steel runners that are attached to wood or fibreglass runners.
Sturz: German word for crash.


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