Ballpark Price quote: $100 to $2,000.
Okay, pretend it’s winter season and you’re a kid with a sled. You’re standing at the top of a really steep hill. It’s the hill your close ones told you to really, really keep away from since it was too unsafe. There are at least ten other daredevils up there with you, however, nobody’s got the courage to give it a try. You lock it with your eyes and think it’s a million feet long to the bottom. A couple of kids say it’s too icy and back out, however, you try to them. It’s only you, your sled, and the hill. You get that this is it – the try of your life. You grip the sides of your sled, sprint toward the edge of the hill, and launch. Next thing you see, you’re speeding towards the bottom, absolutely out of control. The world is a blur. You go over a couple of bumps, a rock or 2, you lose your hat, a boot falls off, the bush you were hoping you’d be able to avoid whips you in the face, and you turn and crash at the bottom. You lie there, covered with snow, looking up at the sky, and you laugh. You may be bleeding a little bit, but it doesn’t matter, you’re still chuckling.
If this sounds like something you’d do, then perhaps Skeleton sledding is your kind of sport.
A little bit of history
The very first Skeleton race was organized in the ski resort town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, back in 1884. At that time, it was truly a single toboggan race, and riders sat on their bottoms while they moved. By 1887, racers were lying in the sled, in the headfirst position that is used today, as they raced down the road from St. Moritz to a nearby town, fighting for first prize – a bottle of champagne. 5 years later on, a brand-new sled was designed, made almost fully from metal, and slightly looking like a human Skeleton. Skeleton racing was named an Olympic sport in 1926.
The Skeleton sled sits just about 3″ to 8″ off the ground. The sled can be 32″ (80cm) to 48″ (120 cm) long, and 14″ (34 cm) to 16″ (38 cm) large, for both males and females. Considering that heavier sleds go quicker, there are rigorous guidelines about the combined overall weight of sled and rider. For males, the racer and sled combined can weigh no more than 253.5 pounds (115 kg). Ladies have a combined racer and sled weight limitation of 203 pounds (92 kg).
How You Do It
To ride a Skeleton, you will lie on your stomach, with your head in front of the sled and your legs and feet hanging behind. Your arms should be at your sides. You’ll be more than happy to learn that you’ll be using a full helmet with face guard and chin guard, and lots of racers use very small cushioning too, on shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and hands. Your shoes will have steel spikes on the soles and an aerodynamic, injected polymer toe cap. You use the spikes as you press your sled and sprint for your start. The toe caps can be rather helpful throughout the fast ride. There is no steering or brake system on a Skeleton. You guide it by moving your weight just slightly, or by tapping with a toe or toes on the ice. You can drag your toes slows you down if you believe you’re going too quick and may crash. Elite Skeleton professional athletes will ride at speeds of over 80 miles per hour, and careening off the concrete and ice walls is unavoidable and a part of the sport.
Utah Winter Season Games Clinics – Price of $100
If you wish to see what Skeleton looks like as a sport, your best choice is to take part in a 4-hour clinic run by the Utah Winter Games clinic program. In 2008, there were just 3 clinics provided in late January, and pre-registration is a must. The center is open to those of ages 14 years and older and accepts a maximum of 8 males and 8 females. All of the instruction and ice time will occur at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah, and they tell you that “you’ll feel just like to Superman, or even like a hockey puck”.
Skeleton Camps – Utah Olympic Park
Skeleton Introduction Camp – $200
You should be 13 or older to take part in this half-day camp. You will get all the needed instructions and approximately 3 ice runs.
Skeleton School – $600
You need to be 14 or older to take part in this one day camp.
Skeleton Fantasy Camp
In Park City – $1,800
In Lake Placid – $2,000
You need to be 18 or older to take part in these 4 day/3 night Skeleton Fantasy Camps, and there is a limitation of 8 to 10 individuals. National Team Coaches and experienced professional athletes will teach you how to drive the sled, train and exercise, start, examine the track, and prepare and preserve the sled and runners before any competition. The charge will include housing and meals, track costs, a one-year subscription in the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (USBSF), training, and use of devices (sleds, runners, and helmets).
If you think that you’re really ready to try the sport of Skeleton racing, you must participate in a USBSF approved training school at one of the two Olympic Parks in the U.S. – either Lake Placid, New York City or Park City, Utah. Here are a few of the physical requirements noted on their site (www.usbsf.com):
- Height: 5′ 6″ to 6′ 2″.
- Weight: 150 to 200 pounds.
- Speed: 4.00 seconds or faster in 30m standing start sprint and 3.20 seconds or faster in 30m fly start sprint.
- Jumps: Vertical jump of a minimum of 30 inches.
- Height: 5′ 0″ to 5′ 9″.
- Weight: 130 to 180 pounds.
- Speed: 4.50 seconds or faster in 30m standing start sprint 3.80 seconds or faster in 30m fly start sprint.
- Jumps: Vertical jump of a minimum of 23 inches.
USBSF Training Schools and Recruitment Camps
The fee is not yet decided by USBSF.
To take part in the training school and the Development Program, you need to be part of the USBSF (Subscription Fee: $25 for Juniors; $50 for grownups).
These are 5-day camps held at each of the Olympic parks. You will find out how to drive a Skeleton sled and be evaluated on your driving and your natural capabilities in this particular sport. You will at the same time learn about start strategies and be evaluated on how well and how fast you can maneuver the sled. Additionally, there will be different physical tests like running, jumping, and hopping.
If you pass with a high grade the 5-day training school, the training personnel might ask you to take part in the National Development program, which will bring you a little closer to your dream of being a part of the National group. Check out the USABSF site for Recruitment Camp dates and to download the application sheet.
The charge will include:
- Accommodation and food in Lake Placid; Accommodation only in Park City
- Track charges
- Use of Skeleton sled
- Use of helmet
Training in Canada
Canadians will pay $345.
Non-Canadians will pay $500.
Professional athletes frequently train and compete in other nations in an effort to earn their place on that nation’s national group or team. You can learn how to use the Skeleton sled at the Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Alberta. The Alberta Skeleton Association (ASA) provides a 3-day Skeleton School that includes needed instructions, training, required devices, and a 1-year subscription to the ASA. Individuals need to be 14 years or older.
Needed equipment and devices
The majority of Skeleton professional athletes will agree that of the 3 sliding sports (Skeleton, bobsleigh, and luge), Skeleton is the safest! Injuries in Skeleton are primarily of the contusion, skin burns, and lacerations range. Still, you get quite banged up, and your protections do too. If you get involved in this sport, be ready to change your protections and equipment more regularly than your wallet will approve.
Skeleton Sled Racing Equipment costs:
Helmet with full-face chin guard and face guard –$300 to $500.
Shoes (made solely by Adidas; delivered from Denmark) – $300 to $350.
Speed Suit – (inexpensive suits are Spandex; costly suits are made from modern aerodynamically boosted material) – $99 to $249.
Sled (training sled, second-hand) – $1000 to $2,500.
Sled (brand-new sled) – $4,000 to $6,000.
Runners (you will require a lot of sets) – $800 to $1,000 per set.