20+ Differences between Luge and Skeleton (Explained)

Luge and skeleton are two of the three extreme sliding sports commonly known today in the Winter Olympics, the third being bobsleigh. All three sports include the athletes riding down a slippery ice track and clocking the fastest time. The speeds these athletes reach are incredible.

The two sports- luge and skeleton- differ in several ways from each other. Some of them are easily visible – like how they start or ride, and some of them need a sharper eye.

differences between luge and skeleton

Comparison between Luge and Skeleton

Number of divisionsCurrently, 4, a women’s doubles event will also be introduced.Only two divisions comprise of separate single events for men and women
Number of participantsIn luge, 1 person if the event is a single, 2 if the event is a double.Only 1 participant because both the divisions in the skeleton are single events.
The starting positionLugers sit on the sled and launch using the track handles; then, they push with their hands.In skeleton, sliders run towards the track pulling the sled from the side and then jumping on it.
The riding positionLugers have their backs on the sled and hold the sled bars on the side for support.Skeleton sliders have their front on the sled, and the sled holds the slider.
SteeringIn luge, the slider needs to use calves and shoulders to steer.In skeleton, the person can use their full body – from their shoulders to their toes.
ControlThe precision in control is less but sufficient.The ability to maneuver using their full body requires the slider to be very good at controlling the momentum.
Top speedLugers can go as fast as 145 km/h (90 mph)Skeleton sliders can be as fast as 130 km/h (81mph) 
Type of sledLuge sleds are longer with steel handles for support.Skeleton sleds are shorter, thinner, and more compact with bumpers.
Weight of sledLuge sleds weigh upto 25 kg (55 lbs) or 30 kg (66 lbs)Skeleton sleds can weigh upto 35 kg(77.2 lbs) or 43 kg(94.8 lbs)
Spiked equipmentLugers use spiked gloves.Skeleton sliders use spiked shoes.

The Major Differences Between Luge and Skeleton

What is Luge?

Luge is an extreme sliding sport that began in Norway in the fifteenth century. It took its current form in the nineteenth century but was introduced quite late in the Olympics, i.e., in 1964. In Luge, the athletes sit on the sled and push themselves forward by using the steel bars on the tracks.

Right after the push, they use their hands to gain momentum as much as possible and then lay down with their backs on the sled. They use their calf muscles and shoulders to steer and adjust the angle. The one who finishes with the fastest time wins. 

What is Skeleton?

Skeleton is popularly known as the first among all the sliding sports. It was originally a part of the 1928 Olympics as well as the 1948 Olympics. It became a permanent Olympic event in 2002.

In Skeleton, the sliders gain initial momentum by running on the track along with their sleds on the ground. After that, they leap onto the sled with their stomachs down and heads in front. For steering, they use their body, especially their shoulders and legs. Like Luge, The one with the fastest time wins.

things to know about luge and skeleton

Contrast Between Luge and Skeleton

Number of Divisions

  • LugeIn Luge, there are five events – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, and a team event. The fifth event, women’s doubles, will be a part of future Olympics events.
  • SkeletonSkeleton has only two divisions – a men’s singles event and a women’s singles event.

Number of Participants

  • LugeThe number of participants on the sled can vary depending on whether it is a single or a doubles event.
  • SkeletonBecause Skeleton has only singles as events, the number of participants can only be one.
divisions and participants of luge and skeleton

The Starting Position

  • Luge Lugers are the only ones who start by already sitting on their sleds. They use the metal bars on the sides of the tracks to build momentum and then launch forward. Then they use their hands to push against the ground and build more momentum.
  • SkeletonSkeleton sliders hold their sleds from one end but do not lay on them at first. They need to build momentum by running while keeping their sleds on the ground. The running distance is about 40 meters(131 feet), after which they ride the sled.

The Riding Position

  • LugeThe lugers lay on their backs and hold themselves in that position while sliding on the track. The feet stay on the front.
  • Skeleton The skeleton sliders jump forward on the sled and ride with their bellies in contact with the sled. The head of the slider is at the front, just a few centimeters above the ground.

The Method of Steering

  • LugeIn Luge, the sliders have to use their calf muscles to steer themselves. Alternatively, they can also use their shoulders to adjust their angles as and when sharp turns come.
  • SkeletonSkeleton sliders need to use their entire body for steering. They can use their shoulders, legs, and even toes to adjust their angle with the track and maintain their speed.

The Precision in Control

  • LugeBecause the sled is bigger and lighter than that in the Skeleton, lugers can control the sled to a certain limit. Moreover, they cannot use their entire body to steer themselves.
  • Skeleton Skeleton sleds are shorter but allow the sliders to use their entire body for steering. Because of this, they need to steer very carefully, and hence, they need to be very precise despite having more control.

Top Speed

  • LugeThe speed of lugers can go as fast as 145 kilometers per hour(90 miles per hour) and even 154 kilometers per hour(96 miles per hour).
  • SkeletonSkeleton is comparatively slower when it comes to speed. The sliders can go as fast as 130 kilometers per hour(81 miles per hour)
way to play luge and skeleton

The Type of Sled

  • LugeThe sleds for Luge are different than those used in Skeleton. Luge sleds, also called Luge, are longer in size. The blades underneath are also longer, with steel handles on either side to allow lugers to keep their contact with the sled and prop themselves more precisely.
  • SkeletonSkeleton sleds are unique in themselves. The metal sleds are shorter, thinner, and more compact. The base is made of plastic or fiberglass with bumpers at the front and the back. 

The Equipment Used to Gain Run-up

  • LugeFor Luge, the athletes wear spiked gloves because they use their hands to speed themselves up as they run down the slope.
  • Skeleton For Skeleton, the athletes have to wear spiked shoes, which allow them a better grip as they run towards the slope.

The Weight of the Sled

  • LugeThe sleds for Luge weigh from 21 kilograms(46 pounds) to 25 kilograms(55 pounds) in the case of singles events. If it is a doubles event, the weight can be from 25 kilograms(55 pounds) to 30 kilograms(66 pounds) to withstand the weight of two people.
  • SkeletonThe skeleton sleds are heavier than the luge sleds. However, the weights of these sleds are not allowed to exceed 43 kilograms(94.8 pounds) for men; and 35 kilograms(77.2 pounds) for women.
equipment used in luge and skeleton

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. In the Olympics, how many medals are available for grabs in Luge itself?

Considering the number of divisions, which are singles, doubles, and team events, there are 12 medals to be won overall.

The number will increase to 15 later when a women’s doubles event is also a part of Luge.

Q2. How many medals are available in the skeleton events?

In the Olympics, six medals will be available for Skeleton since there are only two divisions in the Skeleton.

Q3. From where does the word ‘luge’ come from?

The word Luge was first used at the beginning of the 19th century. It is taken from the french word ‘luge,’ which refers to a small sled.

Q4. How did Skeleton get its name?

It is not exactly clear where Skeleton got its name from. However, one of the possible sources could be the sleds, which are thinner and also looked bony at one point.

The other possibility is that it is a mispronunciation of the Norwegian word ‘kjelke’ (pronounced kh-yell-kay), meaning sled.

Q5. Can people get injured in such sliding sports?

It might seem that Luge and Skeleton would not lead to heavy injuries. But in these sports, the sliders go at incredible speeds, between 130 kilometers per hour(81 miles per hour) to 145 kilometers per hour(90 miles per hour), making them vulnerable to injuries as heavy as any extreme sport.

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