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A family sledding Sledding by David Shankbone.jpg
A family sledding
Children sledding in a park, 18 secs video

Sledding, sledging or sleighing is a winter sport typically carried out in a prone or seated position on a vehicle generically known as a sled (North American), a sledge (British), or a sleigh. It is the basis of three Olympic sports: luge, skeleton and bobsledding. When practised on sand, it is known as a form of sandboarding.

Vehicle Mobile machine that transports people, animals or cargo

A vehicle is a machine that transports people or cargo. Vehicles include wagons, bicycles, motor vehicles, railed vehicles, watercraft, amphibious vehicles, aircraft and spacecraft.

Sled Land vehicle used for sliding across snow or ice

A sled, sledge, or sleigh is a land vehicle that slides across the surface, usually of ice or snow. It is built with either a smooth underside or a separate body supported by two or more smooth, relatively narrow, longitudinal runners similar in principle to skis. This reduces the amount of friction, which helps to carry heavy loads.

Luge sliding sport where where an individual or a team of 2 propels a luge down a natural or artificial track

A luge is a small one- or two-person sled on which one sleds supine and feet-first. A luger steers by using their calf muscles to flex the sled's runners or by exerting opposite shoulder pressure to the seat. Racing sleds weigh 21–25 kg (46–55 lb) for singles and 25–30 kg (55–66 lb) for doubles. Luge is also the name of an Olympic sport.


Sledding in Poland, Podkowa Leśna, Feb., 2010


Old-fashioned wooden sled (or Toboggan without runners) Wooden sled.jpg
Old-fashioned wooden sled (or Toboggan without runners)

The practical use of sleds is ancient and widespread. They were developed in areas with consistent winter snow cover, as vehicles to transport materials and/or people, far more efficiently than wheeled vehicles could in icy and snowy conditions. Early designs included hand-pulled sizes as well as larger dog, horse, or ox drawn versions. Early examples of sleds and sledges were found in the Oseberg Viking ship excavation. [1] The Toboggan sled is also a traditional form of transport used by the Innu and Cree of northern Canada and the people of Ancient Egypt are thought to have used sledges (on the desert sand and on ramps) extensively for construction.


A toboggan is a simple sled which is a traditional form of transport used by the Innu and Cree of northern Canada.

Innu First Nation in North America

The Innu are the Indigenous inhabitants of an area in Canada they refer to as Nitassinan, which comprises most of the northeastern portion of the present-day province of Quebec and some eastern portions of Labrador.

The Cree are one of the largest groups of First Nations in North America.

Modern sledding

The generic term sledding refers to traveling down a snowy hill using a sled such as a Flexible Flyer with wooden slats and metal runners.It is usually done during the winter when there is snow. [2] Flat plastic or aluminum discs and improvised sleds (carrier bags, baking trays, cafeteria trays, sheets of cardboard, etc.) may also be used. The activity has been known to exist as a fringe recreational activity far into the distant murky past in toboggan-type sleds which seasonally supplant the ubiquitous cart.

Flexible Flyer sled of that brand

Flexible Flyer is a toy and recreational equipment brand, best known for the sled of the same name, a steerable wooden sled with steel runners.

Cart vehicle with two wheels

A cart is a vehicle designed for transport, using two wheels and normally pulled by one or a pair of draught animals. A handcart is pulled or pushed by one or more people. It is different from a dray or wagon, which is a heavy transport vehicle with four wheels and typically two or more horses, or a carriage, which is used exclusively for transporting humans.

Back country sledding

A backcountry sled (a kid's size Mad River Rocket - Stinger) Mad River Rocket Stinger Black.jpg
A backcountry sled (a kid's size Mad River Rocket - Stinger)

In contrast to the more common forms of sledding, back country sledding involves four important elements in combination: a great amount of directional control, flotation, a binding system, and padding. First, back country sleds are made of strong plastic material, with the snow-side surface possessing various grooves and chines for directional control. Second, the plastic construction, with a large amount of snow-side surface area keeps the sled afloat in deeper snow conditions (the same principle behind wider powder skis or snowboards). Though the original runner sleds possessed directional control, their thin runner blades bogged down in anything but icy or thin snow conditions. Disk sleds, on the other hand, possessed flotation but no directional control. Third, modern back country sleds have a binding system, which usually consists of a simple belt strap that attaches to the sides of the sled. With the sledder in the kneeling position, the strap may go over the sledder's thighs or calves before connecting with the strap from the other side of the sled with some sort of buckling device. Finally, back country sleds have foam pads glued for the sledder to kneel on for shock absorption. One such sled is the Mad River Rocket.

Back country sledding is a closer kin to back country alpine skiing or snowboarding than to traditional "pile the family in the van and go to the local hill" type of sledding. The terrain for back country sledding includes powder-filled steeps, open mountain bowls, cliff-filled ridges, and basically anywhere that one finds the powder, steeps, rocks and trees. Back country sleds, with the binding system and padding, may also be used for freestyle moves such as spins and flips off jumps and rail slides. Though similarities exist between back country sledding and alpine skiing/snowboarding, important differences separate the disciplines. From a technical perspective, the lack of a metal edge and the lower center of gravity make it more difficult to control a back country sled on icy or packed snow surfaces. From an access perspective, alpine resorts do not allow sledding on the actual mountain, except for the occasional small tubing hill.

Recreational sledging techniques

Schlitteln, Schweizer Alpen, ~1890-1910 Zentralbibliothek Zurich - Schlittelsport in den Alpen - 000012146.jpg
Schlitteln, Schweizer Alpen, ~1890-1910

The first ride down a hill on a sled is the most important, but most also the most difficult, as it determines the path of the sled for further runs down the hill. It is essential to steer the sled along the most exciting course, perhaps adding twists and turns to make the run down the hill faster or more exciting. Other techniques to improve the ride include turning around, lying on the stomach, or closing both eyes. Running up to a sled and jumping onto it can create additional momentum and improve ride speed. This technique can be referred to as "Flopping."

Hill Landform that extends above the surrounding terrain

A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. It often has a distinct summit, although in areas with scarp/dip topography a hill may refer to a particular section of flat terrain without a massive summit.

There are five types of sleds commonly used today: runner sleds, toboggans, disks, tubes and backcountry sleds. Each type has advantages and disadvantages if one is trying to get the most out of a given slope.

Slope In mathematics, the slope or gradient of a line describes its steepness, incline, or grade; number that describes both the direction and the steepness of the line

In mathematics, the slope or gradient of a line is a number that describes both the direction and the steepness of the line. Slope is often denoted by the letter m; there is no clear answer to the question why the letter m is used for slope, but it might be from the "m for multiple" in the equation of a straight line "y = mx + b" or "y = mx + c".

With each course down the hill, the sled's path through the snow can become more icy. Sleds with a greater surface area (anything but runner sleds) are able to make the first runs a great deal easier than the variety of sleds with metal runners. Runner sleds are typically faster once the snow has compacted or turned icy. In the 1880s, Samuel Leeds Allen invented the first steerable runner sled, the Flexible Flyer. Since that date, the ability to steer the sled away from obstacles has led people to believe it to be more appropriate choice for the safety conscious. On the other hand, the hard wood or metal front section of steerable runner sleds is far more likely to cause serious injury if it strikes a person, or if the hands are caught between the steering mechanism and a solid object in a crash. Each year, around 30,000 children in the US are injured in sledding, with one in 25 injuries requiring hospitalization. In a majority of these serious cases, young children are riding runner sleds in a prone position, and suffer hand and finger injuries when they are caught under the runners or between the sled and another object. [3] In addition, runner sleds force the weight of the rider onto two thin runners where the pressure causes a microscopic film of snow or ice to melt as the sled passes over it. This invisible layer of fluid reduces friction, causing the sled's speed to greatly exceed that of its flat bottomed relatives.

With the control of a backcountry sled, stunts become possible. Sledding off cliffs and doing tricks off jumps is known as extreme sledding.

Competitive sledding

The Swiss bobsleigh team from Davos, ca. 1910 Bobfahrer Davos.jpg
The Swiss bobsleigh team from Davos, ca. 1910
Building a high tech modern Skeleton sled for Olympic grade racing. Engineering skeleton sled.jpg
Building a high tech modern Skeleton sled for Olympic grade racing.

Sweden and Norway recorded some early Kicksled Races during the 15th century. [4] [5] The modern sport of sledding (Luge - Skeleton and Bobsledding) originated in St. Moritz, Switzerland in the mid-to-late 19th century when vacationing guests adapted delivery sleds for recreational purposes and from there, it quickly spread to Davos and other Swiss towns and villages. [6]

Modern competitive sledding started in 1883 in Davos, Switzerland. An Australian student named George Robertson won what is reputed to be the world’s first international sled race. He outraced 19 other competitors from England, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States on a four kilometre stretch of road from St. Wolfgang to the town of Klosters. [7] Soon the Bobsleigh, Luge, and Skeleton were developed in succession. By mid-decade, Kulm Hotel owner Caspar Badrutt had the first run or course purpose built for the fledgling sport. The opening of formal competition for Luge was in 1883 and for Bobsleds in 1884 at St. Moritz. in 1926, the International Olympic Committee declared bobsleigh and skeleton as Olympic sports and adopted the rules of the St. Moritz run as the officially recognized Olympic rules. [8] It was not until 2002, however, that skeleton itself was added permanently to the Olympic program with the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

There are three Olympic sledding competitions. Bobsled: Men's two and four-crew, Women's 2 crew. Luge: Men's singles, Men's doubles, Women's singles (Team Relay - Olympic discipline starting in 2014). Skeleton: Men's singles, Women's singles

Time line for key Competitive Sledding events

See also

Related Research Articles

Winter sports sport mainly practiced during the wintertime, often on snow or ice

Winter sports or winter activities are competitive sports or non-competitive recreational activities which are played on snow or ice. Most are variations of skiing, ice skating and sledding. Traditionally, such games were only played in cold areas during winter, but artificial snow and artificial ice allow more flexibility. Artificial ice can be used to provide ice rinks for ice skating, ice hockey, and bandy in a milder climate.

Bobsleigh winter sliding sport, where 2 or 4 participants propel a vehicle down a track of ice

Bobsleigh or bobsled is a winter sport in which teams of two or four teammates make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sleigh. The timed runs are combined to calculate the final score.

Skeleton (sport) Winter sliding sport

Skeleton is a winter sliding sport in which a person rides a small sled, known as a skeleton bobsled, down a frozen track while lying face down and head-first. The sport and the sled may have been named from the bony appearance of the sled.

Cresta Run sports venue and a type of sport near Skeleton named after the venue

The Cresta Run is a natural ice skeleton racing toboggan track in eastern Switzerland. Located in the winter sports town of St. Moritz, the 1.2125 km (0.753 mi) run is one of the few in the world dedicated entirely to skeleton. It was built in 1884 near the hamlet of Cresta in the municipality of Celerina/Schlarigna by the Outdoor Amusement Committee of the Kulm Hotel and the people of St. Moritz. The committee members were Major William Henry Bulpett, George Robertson, Charles Digby Jones, C. Metcalfe, and J. Biddulph. It has continued as a partnership to this day between the SMTC, founded in 1887, and the people of St. Moritz.


Korketrekkeren is a tobogganing track and former bobsleigh and luge track in Oslo, Norway. The tobogganing track runs between Frognerseteren and Midtstuen and is operated as a public venue by the municipality. Return transport to the top of the hill is undertaken by riding the Oslo Metro's Holmenkollen Line. Tobogganing in the area started in the 1880s, with several roads being used during winter evenings. Auto racing took place in the hill in 1921 and the following year it saw its first luge tournament. The first major tournament was the FIL European Luge Championships 1937. Tobagganing also took place in the nearby Heftyebakken, but from 1950 Korketrekkeren became the sole tobogganing hill and Heftyebakken was used for cross-country skiing.

Swiss hotelier and tourism entrepreneur Caspar Badrutt (1848–1904) was almost singlehandedly responsible for the origin of several modern winter sporting activities. These began when he sought to provide opportunities fun and frolic on the picturesque but cold slopes outside his first hotel in St Moritz, Switzerland.

Noelle Pikus-Pace American skeleton racer

Noelle Pikus-Pace is a retired American skeleton racer who began her career in 2001. She won five medals at the FIBT World Championships, competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and won the silver medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF), originally known by the French name Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT), is the international sports federation for bobsleigh and skeleton. It acts as an umbrella organization for 14 national bobsleigh and skeleton associations as of 2007. It was founded on 23 November 1923 by the delegates of Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Canada and the United States at the meeting of their first International Congress in Paris, France. In June 2015, it announced a name change from FIBT to IBSF. The federation's headquarters are in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Bobsled Run

The Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Bobsled Run is a venue for bobsleigh, luge and skeleton located at the Lake Placid Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, New York, United States. This venue was used for the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and for the only winter Goodwill Games in 2000. The third and most recent version of the track was completed in 2000 with the track hosting both the first FIBT World Championships and FIL World Luge Championships done outside of Europe, doing so in 1949 and 1983. In 2010 the bobsled track was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic Bobrun Oldest bobsleigh, skeleton and luge track in the world

The Olympia Bob Run St. Moritz-Celerina is a bobsleigh track located in the Engadin Valley, Switzerland. It officially opened on New Year's Day 1904 and is the oldest bobsleigh track in the world and the only one that is natural refrigerated. It is also used for other sliding sports, including skeleton and luge.

Utah Olympic Park Track combined bobsleigh, skeleton, and luge track in Park City, Utah

The Utah Olympic Park Track is a bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track located in the Utah Olympic Park, near Park City, Utah, United States. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, held nearby in Salt Lake City, the track hosted the bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton events. Today the track still serves as a training center for Olympic and development level athletes, and hosts numerous local and international competitions.

The FIBT World Championships 2012 took place from 13 to 26 February 2012 at the bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track in Lake Placid, New York for the tenth time. Lake Placid had previously hosted the World Championships in 1949, 1961, 1969, 1973, 1978, 1983, 1997 (skeleton), 2003, and 2009.

The bobsleigh competition of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics was held at the Whistler Sliding Centre between 20 and 27 February 2010.

Elana Meyers American bobsledder

Elana Meyers Taylor, is an American bobsledder who has competed since 2007. Born in Oceanside, California, Meyers was raised in Douglasville, Georgia and is a graduate of The George Washington University, where she was a member of the softball team.

The FIBT World Championships 2013 took place at the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic Bobrun in St. Moritz, Switzerland for the record twenty-second time, after hosting the event previously in 1931 (Four-man), 1935 (Four-man), 1937 (Four-man), 1938 (Two-man), 1939 (Two-man), 1947, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1965, 1970, 1974, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1989 (Skeleton), 1990 (Bobsleigh), 1997 (Bobsleigh), 1998 (Skeleton), 2001, and 2007.

Bobsleigh at the 2010 Winter Olympics – Four-man

The four-man bobsleigh competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was held at the Whistler Sliding Centre in Whistler, British Columbia, on 26–27 February. The German team of André Lange, René Hoppe, Kevin Kuske, and Martin Putze were the defending Olympic champion in this event. America's team of Steve Holcomb, Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler, and Curtis Tomasevicz were the defending world champions in this event. The test event was won by the Latvian team of Jānis Miņins, Daumants Dreiškens, Oskars Melbardis, and Intars Dambis. The last World Cup event prior to the 2010 Games place took place in Igls, Austria on 24 January 2010 and was won by the German team of Lange, Hoppe, Kuske, and Putze. Holcomb of the United States won both the four-man and the combined World Cups.

Marina Gilardoni is a Swiss skeleton racer and former bobsleigh brakewoman. After starting her sporting career in heptathlon at the club level, Gilardoni began racing bobsleigh in 2007 and earned a place on the Swiss national team. She won gold medals at the Junior World Championships in 2008 behind driver Fabienne Meyer and in 2010 with Sabina Hafner driving. After the 2009–10 season, she switched from bobsleigh to skeleton. In 2018, Gilardoni was selected to represent Switzerland in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after the Dutch Olympic Committee refused one of their two entries and it was reallocated to Switzerland.


  1. "The Oseberg finds". Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  2. "Hörnerschlitten" (in German). Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  3. BJC Health Care - The Ups and Downs of Sledding Safety
  4. "United States Luge Association". Retrieved November 25, 2011.
  5. "Norwegian kicksled history". Norwegian Language Blog. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  6. "A Brief History of Snow Sledding in Europe". Retrieved 12 November 2013.
  7. 1 2 International Luge Federation#History
  8. "Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing" . Retrieved 2007-07-18.
  9. "St Moritz Bobsleigh Club 1897" (in German). Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  10. "Olympia Bobrun St. Moritz 1904" (in German). Retrieved November 14, 2013.