A luge is sled for one or two people where one sleds face up and feet-first. Steering is done by using your calf muscles to flex the runners of the sled or by putting pressure on your shoulder opposite to the seat. Racing sleds for one person weigh anything between 21-25 kg and a two-person sled between 25-30 kg. Luge is also the name for the sport officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee, while the International Luge Federation (FIL) is the world governing body. Lugers can reach incredible speeds with the highest recorded so far of 154 km/h in Whistler, Canada. The early recorded sled races go back as far as the 15th century in Norway, but the sport of luge (like skeleton and bobsleigh) originated in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Caspar Badrutt was an hotel entrepreneur who sold the idea of winter resorting that combined food, accommodation and activities. Guests would use the sleds that were mainly for deliveries for their own fun creating collisions with pedestrians in the narrow alleys and lanes of the town. In 1883 the first organized race meeting of the sport took place in Switzerland.
The International Sled Sports Federation was formed in 1913 in Dresden, Germany. They governed until 1935 when the sport was incorporated in the International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation. Luge eventually replaced Skeleton at the Olympic Games and the first World Championship was held in 1955 in Oslo. It was in January 1957 that the International Luge Federation was formed in Davos with 13 delegates. The sport was first included in the 1964 Olympic Winter Games held in Innsbruck. The first World Championships on Natural Track was held at Inzing, Austria, while in 1982 the first Junior World Championships on Artificial Track was held in Lake Placid, USA. Over the years FIL has grown tremendously with the current membership of over fifty nations. The responsibility will always be to grow the sport especially within nations where winter sports are not that prominent. FIL operate by a strict ethics code and work hard to maintain that among all the member nations and while overseeing competitions.
There are competitions in two types of tracks – Artificial and Natural track. Starting with artificial tracks, these are specially designed with banked curves and walled-in straights. Most of these tracks are artificially refrigerated, but there are tracks without artificial cooling. St. Moritz is an example of this. Artificial tracks tend to be very smooth. Natural tracks on the other hand are adapted tracks from mountain roads and pathways. These have no artificially banked curves and the track surface should be horizontal.