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The Skeleton - NOT The Boney Structure Kind

Olympic Sports Skeleton on

Photo Credit: CBS News

When someone says the word “skeleton”, the first thing that most likely comes to mind is the boney structure inside of a human body.  But that is not what we’re talking about here.  The skeleton that we are referring to is an intense winter sport.

In this Olympic sport, a person rides a small sled, known as a skeleton bobsled (or sleigh), down a frozen track while in the prone position (lying face down on the sled, head first with your arms back). 

Sounds pretty similar to sledding down a regular hill, right?  Except that skeleton riders go approximately 80 miles per hour, while barreling down a 1300m to 1500m ice track and experiencing forces up to 5G!  Even though the head-first position looks scary, skeleton pros say that it makes the sport safer than other sliding sports because the athlete can see where they are going.

The skeleton slider, while wearing a close-fitting, aerodynamic speed suit made of rubber, a helmet, and spiked shoes, runs as fast as they can along 50m of ice.  They hold on to the skeleton by the handles while pushing it down the track.  The rider then stretches out onto the sled and prepares for the hairpin and “S” shaped turns on the track.  The slider has nothing to steer but their body weight.  They slightly shift their body weight to the left or right to move in either direction. At the end of the run, there aren’t any brakes involved.  The slider slows the skeleton to a stop by dragging their feet along the icy track.

Would you like to try Skeleton?  It certainly won’t be an easy feat, as there are very few skeleton tracks around the world (16 to be exact) and they are often booked for competitions and training.  Most offer an intro clinic to beginners looking to break into the sport. Lake Placid, Park City, Whistler are a few locations in North America.

If you do decide to try it out, the ride will be over in less than a minute.  Although the ride will be short, the memory will last a lifetime.  Maybe with a little training, you could be next to join the U.S. Team.  Will we see you on the podium in Beijing?


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