A Week of Sport Discovery: Luge

Sport Calgary is doing a blog series on the different Sport Calgary member organizations. This blog introduces Calgarians to sports offered in the city they can try. Ryley is an intern at Sport Calgary for the four months between the third and fourth years of her degree. She is pursuing a bachelor of communication, majoring in PR and minoring in marketing and has a passion for sport. Ryley loves trying new activities and finding different ways to get moving and staying active for life. Her main activities are hiking, skiing, yoga, running and surfing, all of which either her mom, boyfriend or dog loves to join her in doing!

All of the Olympic sliding sports (bobsled, luge and skeleton) have always intrigued me, especially luge. The idea of racing down a track at 110 km/hr is crazy, but sounds like my kind of crazy. I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so I jumped at the chance to try the indoor luge track at WinSport.

WinSport is such a cool place because you are surrounded by some of the best athletes in the country, if not the world. Talk about a place to be inspired! The Ice House in Calgary is also the only place in the world that luge, skeleton and bobsled athletes can practice their starts 365 days a year. Chris took a break from being a coach at the WinSport kids camps that run all summer and was my luge instructor for the day. We got into the track just as the United States national bobsled team was doing their Olympic team trials and Chris got me set up at the luge start.

When we got to the top of the track I started to get nervous. It looked a lot steeper from the top than it did from the side. I thought, is this dangerous? People die doing luge don’t they? But, then again, people can die going to the grocery store so I calmed my nerves and got ready to go. Chris gave me a clunky helmet and demonstrated how to lay on the sled with my arms by my sides and my elbows in, before giving me a push down the track for my first run.

I giggled the whole way down. The track was like the most fun waterslide I had ever been on. The sled I used was a beginner sled with the runners held in place by a metal bar, so I didn’t have to worry about steering (or rather, crashing). My heart was racing at the bottom of the track and I grabbed my sled and ran up for another go.

For the next run I did a real luge start by pulling myself onto the track with metal handles attached to either side of the track. I did a couple more runs and each time was as fun as the last. It was clear that the safety in the Ice House is a priority for WinSport. Chris was saying that the biggest leap for lugers is when they go from the beginner sled to a sled where they have to steer themselves, because the sport becomes much more complex.   

Something that might surprise you is that you can start luge at any age! WinSport has Ice House drop-in times, corporate nights for adults and they host camps for kids who want to try it. The next step is contacting a club like Alberta Luge, and starting to progress and get training from there. These clubs are always looking for athletes, so don’t let your age discourage you! The community isn’t as small and elite as you would think. “For every Olympic athlete there are at least 100 other people doing it,” says Chris. At WinSport they want to give people a chance to try the sport.

As for safety, there have been some accidents in the past several years that may lead people to think that it is not safe. Luge is an extreme sport, so it is riskier than doing puzzles in your basement, but Chris says that starting in the ice house is probably one of the safest things they do at WinSport. Luge clubs are also very thorough with the training of their athletes and teach them how to bail out of their sled if things are go wrong. A roller luge track also helps beginners train in the basics of the sport.

I would absolutely recommend this sport to kids and adults who are looking for a unique sport to try, either competitively or recreationally. It is an expensive hobby at the higher levels, with sleds ranging from $2000 to $5000, but luge gives you the chance to compete at a high level and continue to train in Calgary.  To find out more, go to https://www.winsport.ca/lessonsprograms/kbyg.cfm or email info@winsport.ca.


Becoming a Sport Calgary Member:
Sport Calgary members have access to our resources at Sport Calgary such as marketing on social media, blog entries, features and placement on our calendar. Many other benefits will be available with the re-launch of our website in 2018. Becoming a member is easy and FREE! Go to www.sportcalgary.ca, and under the “Join Us” tab click on the link that corresponds with you or you group. Fill out the form and you will be added to our membership. Sport organizations and individuals can join. 

Evans Hunt