MUSKEGON, Mich. - With the 2018 Winter Games in full swing, the interest for luge has grown significantly.
The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex offers traditional winter sports, such as cross-country skiing and ice skating, but it also is home to one of the only publicly accessible luge tracks in the United States.
Anyone can take a ride on a sled down the 750 feet of track that includes four banked turns, reaching speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Children as young as 8 years old have been known to slide.
"We try to start the kids young here, and if they really like it and they're showing promise, we send them to Lake Placid, and they take off from there," Muskegon Winter Sports Complex luge coach Anna Basaj said.
The track is a youth development seeding program used by the USA Luge Program, welcoming young kids to come to Muskegon and try it.They could become the next Mark Grimmette, a five-time Olympian who had his start on the same track when it was built in 1984.
"He started here when the track was still being built," Basaj said. "He was sent to Lake Placid, and same story, and he worked his way up. He did double luge."
The public luge clinic sessions are scheduled during the weekend, with each session lasting two and a half hours. The session includes training from an experienced luge coach, free sliding time and a friendly competition with an awards ceremony at the end.
Riders must be at least 8-years-old. A signed waiver and proof of health insurance are required before you can luge.
Those without Olympic dreams are still more than welcome. Adults and kids of all ages sign up for the public clinics here. Basaj gives an approximately 15-minute training session covering steering and safety techniques before riders carry their 30-40 pound sled up 70 stairs to the top.
Once at the top, there's no going back. The luge can take less than 20 seconds to reach the bottom of the hill.
There's also a summer luge open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, featuring a specialized track built for sleds with wheels.
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