So You Want to Try Skeleton? 6 Tips for Beginners

While all of the win­ter slid­ing sports require gump­tion, peo­ple per­ceive skele­ton as being par­tic­u­lar­ly extreme. Unlike luge or bob­sled, skele­ton ath­letes, called slid­ers, are posi­tioned with their heads point­ed toward the front of their sleds, a par­tic­u­lar­ly bold move for some­one about to expe­ri­ence forces up to 5G.

So You Want to Try Skeleton? 6 Tips for BeginnersDespite the way this “scary” head-first posi­tion looks, skele­ton pros say that it makes the sport safer than oth­er slid­ing sports, because ath­letes can actu­al­ly see where they are going. Curi­ous about this grav­i­ty-defy­ing sport but not sure where to start? Here’s what you need to know to give skele­ton a try.

Scout a Loca­tion
To try skele­ton, you’ll need access to a track—easier said than done, as there are only six­teen tracks avail­able worldwide.The best way to locate a track is to pin down the past Win­ter Olympics host clos­est to you. Lake Placid, Park City, Whistler, Cal­gary, St. Moritz, La Plagne, Nagano and Lille­ham­mer are a few options. Con­tact a track direct­ly to learn about oppor­tu­ni­ties to try the sport. Most offer some sort of intro clin­ic, though expect to pay upwards of $150 to give the sport a shot.

Time it Right
Most tracks oper­ate sea­son­al­ly, so don’t plan your skele­ton tri­al in the mid­dle of sum­mer! 
Your skele­ton expe­ri­ence will be lim­it­ed to the win­ter months. Do a lit­tle research before book­ing your trip: since there are rel­a­tive­ly few skele­ton tracks around the world, they are often booked for com­pe­ti­tions and train­ing, espe­cial­ly in the months lead­ing up to the Win­ter Olympics.

Assess Your Con­di­tion
The best skele­ton ath­letes are good sprint­ers with the abil­i­ty to think and act quick­ly. A lit­tle extra weight helps, since heav­ier objects will fly down the track faster, but weight in the form of lean mus­cle is more ben­e­fi­cial than fat. Many pro­fes­sion­al skele­ton ath­letes have a back­ground in track and field or in luge. Train­ing for the sport involves a com­bi­na­tion of sprints, weight train­ing and plyometrics.Not sure that you quite mea­sure up? Don’t worry—you don’t have to be in pro shape to give the sport a try. In fact, your first time on a skele­ton will require very lit­tle action on your end—no sprint starts need­ed. Check with your track to ensure you meet their safe­ty require­ments. Some have height and weight restric­tions. The sport is also not rec­om­mend­ed for those who are preg­nant, who suf­fer from heart con­di­tions or have had pre­vi­ous neck or back injuries.

Get Equipped
The track that you choose for your les­son will pro­vide you with a prop­er­ly fit­ted hel­met and will loan you a sled.You should wear slim fit­ting win­ter cloth­ing and shoes with good tread, like win­ter boots or run­ning shoes. Some peo­ple like to wear speed suits to get the full expe­ri­ence, but many lessons involve some down­time wait­ing out­side in the cold, so you’ll want to keep that in mind if you plan on wear­ing only a thin lay­er of spandex.If you have long hair, tie it back so that it stays out of the way. Loose jew­el­ry should be left at home for the same rea­son. 

Mas­ter the Pose
Your les­son will involve a ses­sion to famil­iar­ize you with the sled and to teach you the prop­er posi­tion­ing tech­niques. The goal is to lie on your stom­ach, head fac­ing for­ward. Your toes should be kept back and slight­ly up, though you shouldn’t bend your knees to have you feet fly­ing up in the air. Your chin should be up—think of a pen­cil placed along the back of your neck, and you have to tilt you head to keep the pen­cil in place.

Now remem­ber this as you careen 80 mph down the ice! 

Do Noth­ing
Pro­fes­sion­al skele­ton ath­letes (or at least those who make it beyond their first les­son) will learn prop­er steer­ing tech­nique, but begin­ners are advised to do noth­ing at all. Don’t lift your shoul­ders. Don’t lean. Don’t drag your feet. Just. Lie. Still. Believe it or not, this can be incred­i­bly hard for a begin­ner to do! The sen­sa­tion of slid­ing down the track with incred­i­ble G-forces is total­ly new to most peo­ple, and the instinc­tu­al response is to react. Resist!

And that’s all it takes to expe­ri­ence the thrill first­hand! The ride will be over in less than a minute, but the mem­o­ry will be embed­ded in your mind for­ev­er. Who knows… maybe you’ll find your­self stand­ing on the Olympic podi­um one day!