What is Luge?


A luge, the French word for "sledge," is a small one or two person sled where the rider will sled face up and feet first. The luger steers by using the calf muscles to flex the sled's runners. Lugers can reach speeds of 90 mph, and it is a very popular Olympic sport. Luge racing has been around over 130 years, and can be considered one of the most precisely timed sports in the world.


Luge History

Luge is a sport with Swiss origins, as it was developed in the country with roots going all the way to the 1700s. 300 years later, the first-ever luge tracks were built by Swiss hotel owners as a way to cater to thrill-seeking tourists. The first ever race was held in Davos in 1883, with competitors racing along an icy 4km road between Davos and the village of Klosters. The first World Championship was held in 1955, and nine years later Luge made its Olympic debut in the 1964 games.

Playing Surface

Luge Playing Surface

A luge track is extremely dangerous and icy. It has a very firm surface allowing sliders to go down the track at extremely high speeds. In luge, there are two types of tracks: natural tracks and artificial tracks.

The natural track is made of packed snow and ice. The slope is no greater than 1.5 percent, meaning that every 100 feet of track, the maximum elevation change is one and a half feet. A natural luge track can be made by anyone if he or she has enough snow to work with.

An artificial luge track is far steeper and has high banked turns, along with an average slope of 8 to 11 percent. Speeds on these tracks reach 90 mph, or even more. The types of artificial tracks used in the Olympics are structures that use a lot of technology, and there are fewer than two dozen luge tracks on the planet.


Luge Equipment

Despite luge being an extremely complex sport when it comes to navigating a course, the equipment involved is relatively limited. Equipment includes gloves, boots, a sled, and a helmet. Luge equipment is designed for the utmost aerodynamics, minimal friction, and top speed. A luge sled is made of fiberglass and steel, and is custom-built for the athlete based on their height and weight.

Along with the sled, a slider will wear a smooth, rubberized, skin-tight suit designed to minimize friction. The gloves that competitors wear are spiked and provide traction when the slider is paddling over the ice at the beginning of the race.


Luge Gameplay

At the start of a luge course, there is one handle on each slide of the track. The slider grabs the handles and rocks back and forth to build momentum for the start. The slider needs to make it to the finish line without falling or abandoning the sled. Luge is timed to a thousandth of a second. Every track in luge is different, so they all take different amounts of time to get down the course. Therefore, there are no world records in luge, only course records.

Positions and Roles

Luge Positions and Roles

In doubles luge, the two athletes will have different roles. There will be one rider on the top of the sled, while a shorter rider will be at the bottom for him to sit on. The taller rider will be responsible for being able to see where they are going, and he will signal to his partner when to turn by moving his head. Both riders need to work together to steer and get down the slide as fast as possible.

Rules and Regulations

Luge Rules and Regulations

With luge comes a fair amount of rules and regulations to make sure that there is fair play and that all competitors are safe. In order to participate in a competition, athletes must acquire an FIL license and also must meet the technical requirements for handling the track. All athletes must wear the FIL safety helmet as well. Sleds can only weigh about 21 to 25 kg for a single sled and 25 to 30 kg for a double sled.

Referees and Officials

luge referees and officials

Referees in luge make sure that all rules are being followed and that the competition is fair to all competitors. These officials will work the starts, finish, control areas, and timing. Another role of officials is that they are required to do the administrative paperwork, be jury members, technical delegates, course inspectors, and even track workers. They must be willing to work outside in harsh weather for long periods of time, as a race day is typically at least 6 to 8 hours.

Lingo and Terminology

Luge Lingo and Terminology

In luge, there are a lot of different terms that you should be aware of to better understand the sport. When watching on tv, you will notice the announcer using terms such as the ones below, so it is important to ensure you understand them ahead of time to ensure that you can follow what is going on.

BlockPart of the start of the race where the sled is rocked forward from.
BootieThe racing shoe that is worn by sliders which enhances aerodynamics.
KrieselGerman word for a toy top. This term describes a turn on the tracker hich curves back under itself.
LabyrinthA series of three or more curves, with little to no straightaway between them.
PodThe seat of the slider on a sled that is attached to the bottom.
SpritzIncreasing the speed of the track by spraying a mist of water over the surface
G-ForceThe force that holds the slide and athlete against the wall during a turn.


Luge Coaching

Luge coaches must have a deep understanding of sleds and luge physics. While the sliders are training, coaches are analyzing their techniques using footage with digital cameras and other technologies. This will help the coach work with the athlete to point out any flaws in technique that will help them improve in speed and ultimately find more success on race day. Luge coaches also must have a certificate in First Aid, since it is such a dangerous sport.

Skills and Techniques

Luge Skills and Techniques

Luge is an extremely difficult sport that requires a lot of strength and endurance. It is also important for sliders to have great flexibility as they will be maneuvering themselves through various twists and turns on a track. The body needs to be tight and relaxed at the same time, being stiff enough to maximize acceleration, yet relaxed enough to absorb the intense forces acting on the slider throughout the run. To steer, a slider will be on his or her back with the feet in front. They need to be able to steer without being able to see, which is extremely difficult.


Luge Strategy

An important aspect of the luge is having a fast start. The start could make or break the entire run, so it is important to make sure that you have a powerful start. Along with that, the coach and racers should have an extremely good idea of what the track's curve and banks will be like. Having knowledge of track is critical so the slider will know when to adjust their positions throughout the race.


Luge Drills

With luge being an extremely physically demanding sport, there are many drills that athletes participate in year round so they can perform to the best of their ability. In the offseason, luge athletes train very hard to build upper body strength through swimming, weight training, and calisthenics. During the winter, they'll do practice runs just about everyday. Sometimes, they will only practice to develop strength, agility, and technique.

Olympic Luge

olympic luge

Luge is one of the most popular sports in the Olympics. It gains a lot of popularity during this time since casual fans are in awe of the sheer speed and danger that the sliders will go through. The Olympics has had men's and women's singles and doubles since 1964, and has had team relay since 2014. Armin Zoggeler is the most successful luge athlete winning two gold medals and collected a total of six medals.

Luge Brands

Luge Brands

Unlike other sports, luge does not have specific brands that cater specifically to the sport. Since luge is such a small sport, the companies that manufacture luge equipment are often not the big name brands that you may see in other winter sports. Uvex is the only major brand that plays a role in luge equipment, as many athletes prefer to wear Uvex helmets when they are sliding down the course.

Luge Youth Organizations

Luge Youth Organizations

All over the world, there are luge clubs and programs that offer lessons for people at young ages. These programs will teach young aspiring athletes the fundamentals and safety of the sport. These programs are focused on skills development and evaluation, they are not intended to be a "thrill ride" the max speed the kids will go is 25 mph. With luge being such a small sport, these programs are a great way for athletes to break their way into the Olympics. 80% of the athletes on the United States Olympic team have found the sport by trying a youth clinic or program, as it is the easiest way to get into the sport.

Luge Coaches

Luge Coaches

The coach plays a vital role in an athletes success in luge, as they are extremely knowledgeable and do an excellent job in teaching the athletes everything they know about the sport. Below is a list of some coaches who have found an immense amount of success in the sport of luge. Many coaches were successful lugers themselves, taking their experience into their coaching careers.

Miroslav ZajoncUnited States
Wolfgang StaudingerCanada
Josef LenzGermany
Matt HattonSouth Korea

Luge Players

Luge Players

The top luge athletes in the world represent their countries in the World Cup and Olympic events. These are athletes who devoted their lives to the sport at a very young age. Most olympic athletes like these had to make very large sacrifices to allow themselves to put enough focus on the sport. Here are some of the most successful athletes the sport of luge has seen.

Peter PenzAustria
Tobias WendlGermany
Georg FischlerAustria
Julia ClukeyUnited States
Johannes LudwigGermany
Sascha BeneckenGermany
Tobias ArltGermany

Luge Leagues

Luge Leagues

The International Luge Federation (FIL) is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the world federation of the sport of luge. The FIL is also the only representative of the international sport of luge. The FIL was founded in Davos, Switzerland in 1957, and it is based in Berchtesgaden, Germany. The FIL is responsible for all world club level luge events.

Outside of the FIL, there are national events for lugers who are working to get to the next level. In the United States, that league is called the United States Luge Association. People in the United States will be at this level before they reach the world cup and Olympic levels.

Luge Teams

Luge Teams

In luge, there are not any professional teams. Instead, there are simply countries that are being represented in the World Cup and other FIL events. Germany has dominated the luge world for years, as they have the most total medals by far. Here are the top countries that have found an immense amount of success in the sport of luge.

GermanyTobias Wendl, Tobias Arlt, Patric Leitner, Natalie Geisenberger, Tatjana Huefner
AustriaNina Reithmayer, Doris Neuner, Angelika Neuner, David Gleirscher, Markus Prock
ItalyArmin Zoeggeler, Gerhard Plankensteiner, Oswald Hasalrieder, Gerda Weissensteiner

Luge Events

Luge Events

Luge has certain events every year that can appeal to all types of people. Whether you are a fan, or just curious about what it has to offer, there are plenty of places you can visit to watch pro practices, competitions, and other events. In Park City Utah, you can get tours of the luge track, and there is also a museum at the bottom that talks about numerous Olympic sports, including luge.

Luge Tournaments

Luge Tournaments

Almost all luge tournaments are run by the FIL. There are World Cups, regional championships, and of course the Olympics. There are also relay world cups in which men's singles, women's singles, and doubles teams are all involved. Below is a list of some popular tournaments that are in the sport of luge.

Competition Location
BMW Sprint World CupWhistler and Lake Placid
Viessman Team Relay Presented by BMWAltenberg, Germany
FIL World Cup on Natural TrackLaas, Italy
Viessmann World CupLillehammer, Norway

Luge Books

Luge Books

There are some great books that are related to the sport of luge. These books vary from fiction, childrens, and nonfiction.

Bobsledding and the LugeLarry Dane Brimmer
Winter Olympic Sports: Bobsled and LugeLaura Waxman
Lucy Tries LugeLisa Bowes
Lulu's Green LugeJoyce Mitchell

Luge Websites

Luge Websites

Websites are a great place where you can get all the information you need that relates to luge. These could include competition results, upcoming events, equipment, and apparel. Here are some useful websites for the sport.

Teamusa.org (Luge)USA apparel, information, and highlights
FILOfficial website of the FIL
Olympicchannel.com (Luge)News, Athletes, highlights, and more

Luge FAQ

What is Luge?

A luge is a light toboggan for one or two people who will ride down a course in a timed descent.

How dangerous is luge?

Of all the events in the Olympics (winter and summer) luge is among the most dangerous. With speeds up to 90 mph, sliders are at great risk of serious injury, or even death.

How fast does a luge go?

The average luge speed is around 75 to 80 mph, but top speeds can be up to 90 mph.

Where can I luge?

The best way to get into luge is to sign up for lessons where there is a track nearby. It may be difficult since there is a limited amount of tracks in the world, but if you are ever on a trip in one of these areas, you can sign up for beginner lessons where you can learn the basic fundamentals of the sport.

Who invented the luge?

The luge was created by Vikings all the way back to 800 AD. They were designed to slide down the mountains of Oslofjord. The first ever track was created by hotel entrepreneur Caspar Badrutt.