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10 Reasons Luge Is More Than "Advanced Sledding"

Sledding pales in comparison to the fastest sport on ice. Brought to you by United — proud to fly Team USA for over 30 years.

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1. Lugers call it "the fastest sport on ice."

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The record for fastest lugeing speed belongs to Tony Benshoof, who hit 86.6 miles per hour. It's just what happens when your sled doesn't have brakes. Whereas some disc sleds have brakes and aren't really supposed to be used on ice.

2. Natural luge tracks exist, but Olympic racing is all on artificial tracks.

Everything from banked turns to artificially chilled surfaces make these tracks safe for high speeds as well as usable by lugers, skeleton racers, and bobsleigh teams alike. Then the local snow ramp is barely safe for anyone, let alone professionals.
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Everything from banked turns to artificially chilled surfaces make these tracks safe for high speeds as well as usable by lugers, skeleton racers, and bobsleigh teams alike. Then the local snow ramp is barely safe for anyone, let alone professionals.

3. The men's track in Sochi is 1,365 meters long with 20 curves, while the women's segment is 1,325 meters with 17 turns.

Combined with a height of roughly 30 stories, that all means traveling almost a mile in under a minute. Going that fast in a sled means mounting it on skis and getting the ol' nonstick cooking oil outta the kitchen.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP / Getty Images

Combined with a height of roughly 30 stories, that all means traveling almost a mile in under a minute. Going that fast in a sled means mounting it on skis and getting the ol' nonstick cooking oil outta the kitchen.

4. But despite all that speed, it's still one of the least dangerous sports in the Olympics.

So long as you're cool with steering with your calves while staring at your feet at speeds in the high seventies and with 5G forces during turns. Unless you've got over 100 years of track making, you probably won't experience similar G forces on a sled.
Jokernel / CC BY-SA http://3.0 / commons.wikimedia.org

So long as you're cool with steering with your calves while staring at your feet at speeds in the high seventies and with 5G forces during turns. Unless you've got over 100 years of track making, you probably won't experience similar G forces on a sled.

5. Timing is measured down to the thousandths of seconds, making it one of the most accurately timed Olympic sports.

That accuracy led Team USA to testing over 20 different sled materials for stability and speed (which means wind tunnels and track trials). Your run-of-the-mill sled materials have already been mastered because they're wood and metal or plastic.
Mike Powell / Allsport Concepts / Getty Images

That accuracy led Team USA to testing over 20 different sled materials for stability and speed (which means wind tunnels and track trials). Your run-of-the-mill sled materials have already been mastered because they're wood and metal or plastic.

6. Unlike your average sled, a luge sled has four pieces: steels, bridge, kufen, and pod.

Steels touch the ground, kufens are the runners that let lugers steer with their legs, bridges connect kufens to the pod, and the pod is where the luger lies. This toboggan has one inflatable piece.
Sebastien Starr / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Steels touch the ground, kufens are the runners that let lugers steer with their legs, bridges connect kufens to the pod, and the pod is where the luger lies. This toboggan has one inflatable piece.

7. Zippers on the shoes actually point your feet into the most aerodynamic position possible for you.

Team USA's Erin Hamlin uses aerodynamics both on and off the track by flying with United and wearing custom-made Adidas luge boots. Pretty impressive compared to the most important technology in snow boots, which is just Gore-Tex.
JOHANNES SIMON / AFP / Getty Images

Team USA's Erin Hamlin uses aerodynamics both on and off the track by flying with United and wearing custom-made Adidas luge boots. Pretty impressive compared to the most important technology in snow boots, which is just Gore-Tex.

8. Glove regulations encourage spikes up to five millimeters to help during acceleration.

Alexander Hassenstein / Bongarts / Getty Images
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Getting the best possible start means pulling yourself forward as fast as you can from the starting block, then using your spiked gloves as much as possible to gain even more momentum. However, a good sledding start generally calls for a balanced breakfast.

9. Helmets and visors separate for a complete view of upcoming turns without compromising aerodynamics.

Erin Hamlin has a habit of carrying her visor in her teeth after races. Also consider just how cool Team USA's luge suits and helmets look compared to sledding helmets.
ILMARS ZNOTINS / AFP / Getty Images

Erin Hamlin has a habit of carrying her visor in her teeth after races. Also consider just how cool Team USA's luge suits and helmets look compared to sledding helmets.

10. Suits alone are roughly $350, but with that high-tech sled, gloves, helmet, and visor, everything comes closer to $1,000.

Meanwhile, the entry cost for sledding is about $20–$60.
Digital Vision / Getty Images

Meanwhile, the entry cost for sledding is about $20–$60.

Watch U.S. luger Erin Hamlin gear up for her return to the Olympic tracks aboard United.

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