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6 Things You Might Not Know About Luge Racing

Luge racing
Shaun Botterill, Getty Images

Luge racing is literally the “fastest sport on ice.” These days, men and women alike hurl down ice tracks at ridiculously high speeds in pursuit of an adrenaline rush, and perhaps a little glory to boot. Here are some facts you might not know about the sport?

Where do we get the word “luge?”

The name, derived from French, means ‘sled,’ appropriately enough. This unusual activity finds its origins in wintry Scandinavia among the fearsome Vikings, who made use of sleds with pairs of runners to move about more than 2000 years ago.

Guess how fast they go?

The pace of the sleds, and the incline of the luge tracks scattered across the globe have increased substantially since the time of the Norsemen. These days, men and women alike hurl down lanes of ice at speeds of 90 mph or more in pursuit of an adrenaline rush, and perhaps a little glory to boot.

Yeah, we definitely helped make this sport

US Luge Team
Al Bello, Getty Images

In the 1930s, the US already had an Olympic bobsled program based out of Lake Placid, NY, but not much in the way of luge. That all changed in 1964, when luge became an official Winter Olympic sport. Lolo Hot Springs in Montana was actually where the very first luge run in North America was built. The United States quickly put together a luge team, mostly comprised of soldiers who made the cut. Soon after, the sport began to gain traction in North America.

Luge suits don’t just look ridiculous

Riders, squeezed into skintight bodysuits, plummet down the ice at incredible speeds. The suits and the sleek helmets they wear are designed to reduce aerodynamic drag, thus giving the athletes the quickest ride possible. It’s about as fast as a human body can travel with only gravity as an engine, with the notable exception of falling out of an airplane.

So… how do you drive the thing?

Luge racers steer their small sleds with a series of tight muscle contractions and movements, all the while battling against substantial g-forces of up to 5 g’s, and they do so at speeds most of us wouldn’t even dare try in the safety of our well-fortified cars.

Where can I watch luge races live?

Lake Placid luge racing
Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

If you’d like to check out some luge action in person, you can find US refrigerated tracks in Lake Placid, NY and Park City, UT. If you want to make the trek, you can go to Canada to see races in Calgary, Alberta and Whistler, British Columbia.

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