Top 10 Rules of Skeleton

Skeleton Rules and Regulations

Skeleton is one of the most dangerous and exciting sports that the Winter Olympics offer. It is one of the oldest known disciplines of sledding sports. Skeleton features one person riding a specialized sled down a course made of solid ice, making sharp turns and attempting to record the fastest time possible.


What are the most important rules of skeleton?

  1. Disciplines
  2. Track Regulations
  3. Sled Specification
  4. Equipment Requirements
  5. Weight Limits
  6. Riding Technique
  7. Safety Rules
  8. Violations
  9. Scoring Rules
  10. Olympic Qualification Rules

1. Disciplines

Skeleton itself is a discipline of sledding that is similar to bobsledding and luge. The critical differences are that there is always one rider in skeleton events and the rider always starts the race running before riding face-first downhill. All skeleton events have the same equipment and weight requirements; the only difference is the individual track being raced on. The main competitions for this sport include the Winter Olympics, the European Championships, and World Championships. The IBSF governs both the European and World Championships, while the Winter Olympics are governed by the IOC.

2. Track Regulations

skeleton track

Skeleton races typically take place on specially designed tracks between 1,000 and 1,700 meters in length. These tracks feature declines ranging from 100-124 meters in height and 15-20 turns for the athlete to conquer. Both men and women participate on the same track in competition. Skeleton tracks are artificially preserved and are not common within the US, with only 2 in the entire country. Asia, the world's largest continent, only contained five skeleton tracks as of 2018. The only known naturally occurring track used in competitions is the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic Bobrun in Switzerland, which has hosted 17 World Championships and two Winter Olympic games in 1928 and 1948.

3. Sled Specifications

The sleds used in skeleton are much smaller than ones used in other sledding sports. They are commonly made of an aerodynamic glass fiber that covers the central part of the sled, referred to as the chassis. The sled's other prominent features include the saddle, which the rider steers and sits in, bumpers for protection on the sides, and metal skates on the bottom. The governing body of skeleton, the IBSF, regulates that all sleds must fall between 2 feet 7.5 inches and 3 feet 11.24 inches in width; sleds must be between 3.1 and 7.9 inches in height for men's and women's competitions.

4. Equipment Requirements

Skeleton Equipment

Other skeleton equipment with specific rules that riders must follow includes their runners, which must be made of a solid piece of steel, with no substance coating the blade to help with performance. The runners are temperature tested before the race to ensure they fall within 4 degrees Celsius of the test runner, which is left in the air for an hour before the start of the race. Helmets are mandatory, and no additional devices are allowed for braking or steering. Shoes worn by competitors must have a minimum of 250 spikes no longer than .2 inches or a diameter greater than .06 inches.

5. Weight Limits

Skeleton has particular rules that regulate the weight of both the rider and sled, depending on gender. The sleds' weight must be less than 95 lbs for men and less than 77 lbs for women. The combined weight of all equipment and the rider must be under 253.5 lbs for men and under 202.8 lbs for women. If a rider is below the maximum weight requirement, they are allowed to attach a ballast mechanism to help increase their weight to achieve the required threshold.

6. Riding Technique

Skeleton Riding Technique

In skeleton, a few essential techniques are vital to success on the track. Of these, arguably the most important is the start. Riders get a running start and leap onto their sled after gaining enough momentum. They have 65 meters to get on the sled, and their timer for the race won't begin until the 15-meter mark. Other techniques such as breaking and turning include shifting their body weight and using their toe to tap on the ice to move their trajectory and slow themselves when needed. Illegal techniques include riding the sled feet first, using extra ballasts, or not wearing proper safety equipment.

7. Safety Rules

In a sport as dangerous as skeleton racing can be, there are specific precautions and rules set in place to try to minimize this risk. One example is the mandate for riders to wear helmets to protect against concussions. Another safety precaution prohibits shoe spikes from being more than .2 inches nor having a diameter greater than .06 inches. Lastly, weight limits are imposed on riders and their equipment to limit the maximum speeds they can reach.

8. Scoring Rules

Scoring in skeleton is based on the rider's time to complete the course successfully. The typical format for the Olympics includes four heats that all riders compete in. These 'heats' or races are timed to the hundredth of a second. These runs are recorded over the course of four days, and once completed, the times for each rider are added together. Whoever has the lowest cumulative time after adding their four times is declared the winner. The initial start of the timer for the racers doesn't begin until the riders cross the 15-meter mark as they start their run on the ice.

9. Violations

Skeleton Violations

There are numerous ways for an athlete to receive a violation and potential disqualification in skeleton competitions. Actions such as adding illegal material to the sled, including lubricant to the sled's runners or tape to the handles to help with grip, are grounds for disqualification. Other significant ways for an athlete to violate the rules are to go over the weight requirements or utilize equipment that is not within regulation. Crossing the 65-meter start line without being on the sled may also receive a disqualification for that run.

10. Olympic Qualification Rules

To qualify for the Winter Olympics, athletes must hold a top record in the ISBF ranking system to qualify for the event. To reach a high enough ranking in the ISBF standings, the rider must place well in international competitions held between the Olympics. Events that meet these standards include either the Continental Cup or the World Cup, which are sponsored and recognized by the International Skeleton and Bobsled Federation. The Olympics only allow for 50 total competitors in skeleton, split between 30 slots for men and 20 for women.

FAQ

What is skeleton?

Skeleton is a type of sled racing sport that features an athlete riding a sled at high speeds down a steep course made of ice. The sport is performed solo and uses sleds much smaller and heavier than those in luge. It started around 1882 and is one of the oldest known disciplines of sledding. Now, it is one of the most popular sledding disciplines at the Winter Olympics. At the highest level of competition, riders can reach speeds of up to 80mph and experience up to 5gs of force.

How is skeleton scored at the Winter Olympics?

Skeleton is a hazardous racing sport; only one athlete rides down the course due to the inherently dangerous track being made of ice. Riders are scored on the speed at which they can complete the course. After four runs per participant, their cumulative run times are added together, and that total time is used for their official time and score. The fastest time is declared the winner. If two leading participants end up with the same time after their four individual runs, there is no tie-breaker event, and both are treated as the winners for their event.

What happens if you fall off your sled in skeleton?

In skeleton, competitors often fall or crash during competition due to the icy surface; however, they are not penalized and are still expected to return to their sled as soon as possible and complete the race if they can. Riders move at breakneck speeds and are expected to make difficult turns while completing the track. These maneuvers require the rider to readjust and reposition themselves as needed, and due to this, they are not penalized for getting off of their sleds.