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Olympic Dreams In Kansas City: Bobsled, Luge And Skeleton

Flickr kylemac

  Bobsled, Skeleton, and Luge are winter Olympic sports that involve zipping down an ice covered track on a type of sleigh as fast as you can. (We’re talking like 90 mph.)

All three sports use the same type of track, or “run,” but the sleds are different enough to categorize them each into their own sport.  

So what’s the difference?

  • Bobsled
    With a sprinting start the athletes jump into the snow-car like sled.  In groups of two or four they slide down the run, one person uses the steering mechanism to maneuver around curves.  
  • Skeleton
    With a sprinting start the athlete jumps onto the sled laying face first before descending down the run. The athlete angles their body in different ways to maneuver the steering.
  • Luge
    The racer starts on the sled feet first. The sled and steering methodology is similar to that of the Skeleton.  In either single or doubles the athlete push themselves forward with their arms at the beginning of the track, to begin their descent down the run.

Where to go:
Not so surprisingly, there aren’t many places around the Kansas City area where you can do this.  If you’re really seeking out the true experience you can always make the trip to the Olympic Park in Utah,or go to Whiteface Lake Placid in New York.

Probably the best local option is to find some type of sled, and a good hill.  Here’s a good list of solid sledding hills in Missouri and Kansas.

You may not reach 90 mph, but the thrill of barreling down a snow or ice covered hill at even 15-25 mph is still pretty fun.

To get the experience in Utah or New York, day passes range from $85 – $250, not including travel or accommodations.

In the Kansas City area, the cost of a nice sled starts at about $70. But, you can turn lots of things into a sled for the day, like a recycling bin, inner tube, or any slick piece of hard plastic.

What to wear:
Olympians wear spiked cleats, helmets, gloves and skintight uniforms that help increase their aerodynamics.

If you’ don’t feel like putting on something super skin tight, a snowsuit, hat, helmet, good warm gloves and hearty boots will also work.

Skills/preparation needed:
Bobsled, Skeleton and Luge athletes are also often solid track and field competitors.  The sports require similar physique and use similar muscle groups. Consider participating in track and field training to condition for these sports.

Barreling down a hill or mountain at high speeds is dangerous. Sledding during the daytime is recommended. It is always smart to check the hill prior for obstructions. Wearing a helmet is also not a bad idea. My sister broke her back on Suicide Hill, and I still to this day will not go sledding there.

Who can help: 
USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation USA Luge

Find our entire series on living the Olympic dream in Kansas City at kcur.org/olympicdreams.

Every part of the present has been shaped by actions that took place in the past, but too often that context is left out. As a podcast producer for KCUR Studios and host of the podcast A People’s History of Kansas City, I aim to provide context, clarity, empathy and deeper, nuanced perspectives on how the events and people in the past have shaped our community today. In that role, and as an occasional announcer and reporter, I want to entertain, inform, make you think, expose something new and cultivate a deeper shared human connection about how the passage of time affects us all. Reach me at hogansm@kcur.org.
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