Luge is one of the oldest winter sports which at its grass roots level of tobogganing down a snowy hillside has mass participation in the UK, indeed the Great Britain Luge Association (GBLA) came out of the British Racing Tobogganing Association. The first recorded sled races took place in Norway sometime during the 15th century. The sport of luge, as with the other ice sliding sports the skeleton and the bobsleigh, originated in St Moritz in the mid-to-late 19th century. The first organised meeting of the sport took place in 1883 in Switzerland. In 1913, the Internationale Schlittensportverband or International Sled Sports Federation was founded in Germany. This body governed the sport until 1935, when it was incorporated in the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT, International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation). the first Luge World Championships were held in Oslo (Norway) in 1955. In 1957 Luge broke away from the FIBT to form the Federation International de Luge de Course (FIL, International Luge Federation) and the sport was for the first time included in the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck (Austria) 1964.
There are 2 main winter sport disciplines for Luge, Kuntsbahn (Artificial Track) and Naturbahn (Natural Track). Kuntsbahn with men's singles, women's singles and doubles, is currently on the Winter Olympic Programme, however the FIL remains committed to have Naturbahn added to the programme.
dded to the programme.
Natural tracks are adapted from existing mountain roads and paths. Artificially banked curves are not permitted. The track's surface must be horizontal. They are naturally iced. Tracks can get rough from the braking and steering action. Athletes use a steering rein and drag their hands and use their legs in order to drive around the tight flat corners. Braking is often required in front of curves and is accomplished by the use of spikes built on the bottom of the shoes.
Most of the tracks are situated in Austria and Italy with others in Germany, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Canada and the US. At approximately half-mile (0.8 km) in length natural tracks are shorter than their artificial counterparts. World Championships have been held since 1979 whilst European Championships were first held in 1970.
The remit of the GBLA is to promote and support the participation in both Kunstbahn and Naturbahn in major luge events. A national championships is arranged each year, where possible alongside the British Bobsleigh Championships. Introduction weeks are also arranged through the Armed services luge associations. The National Kunstbahn team is affiliated to the University of Bath which is where the UK based athletes train during the summer months.