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Luge is a winter sport that involves a small, one- or two-person sled on which one sleds supine (lying down, face up,) and feet-first. The sled is steered by flexing the sled's runners with the calf of each leg or exerting opposite shoulder pressure to the seat. Luge is also a competition in which these sleds race against a timer. Like the skeleton and the bobsled, the luge originated in the health-spa town of St Moritz, Switzerland, in the mid-to-late 1800s, through the endeavors of hotel entrepreneur Caspar Badrutt. Badrutt’s more adventurous English guests began adapting delivery boys' sleds for recreation, which soon led to collisions with pedestrians as they sped down the lanes and alleyways of the village. This resulted in the guests developing methods of steering the sleds, which led to the invention of the skeleton (head first, prone), the luge (feet first, supine), and the two- and four-man bobsleighs or bobsleds. Eventually, for the protection of pedestrians, a special track was built for the sledding. Thus, the world's first "half-pipe" was built around 1870. This track is still in use today; it has been used as a venue in two Olympiads, and is one of the few natural weather tracks that do not depend on artificial refrigeration.

The rules for luge are simple. The course is timed, and the luger must depart from the start handles within a certain time once the track is declared clear. The luger, or pilot, is required to arrive at the finish with the sled and in sliding position. Athletes may no longer push their sleds across the finish line. Failure to do so results in automatic disqualification. Lugers are permitted to stop during a run and continue their descent after repositioning the sled on the track, but the luger will be disqualified if touched by the track crew or a fan while in the race. There are also weight restrictions on the sleds, as well as restrictions on the design and construction.

Artificial Tracks

Artificial Tracks have specially designed and constructed banked curves, plus walled-in straights. Most tracks are artificially refrigerated, but artificial tracks without artificial cooling also exist (one example is in St. Moritz). Artificial tracks tend to be very smooth. The athletes ride in an aerodynamic and flat position on the sled, keep their heads low to minimize air resistance. The sled is steered mainly with the feet by applying pressure on the runners. It takes a precise mix of shifting body weight, applying pressure with the shoulders and rolling the head. There are also handles for minor adjustments. Artificial track luge is the fastest and most agile sledging sport.

Natural Track Luge

Natural tracks are adapted from existing mountain roads and paths, and they are naturally iced. The use of artificial refrigeration is forbidden. Tracks can get rough from the braking and steering action. Athletes use a steering reign and drag their hands and use their legs in order to drive around the tight flat corners. Braking is often required in front of curves and is accomplished by the use of spikes built on the bottom of the shoes. Most of the natural luge tracks are found in Austria and Italy, with others in Germany, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, and Canada. The Upper Peninsula Luge Club in Negaunee, MI is home to one of only five lighted natural track luge runs in the world, and is the only natural track in the United States.


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