A spectator's guide to the Luge Worlds 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE, TOURISM WHISTLER - FAST TRACK Despite the lower start gates, athletes are expected to break 140km/h this weekend as the Whistler Sliding Centre hosts the luge World Championships.
  • photo by mike crane, tourism whistler
  • FAST TRACK Despite the lower start gates, athletes are expected to break 140km/h this weekend as the Whistler Sliding Centre hosts the luge World Championships.

Luge is one of the fastest non-motorized sports in the world, with athletes roaring down tracks at speeds over 140km/h while experiencing gravitational forces that exceed what most astronauts face.

In fact, the track records at sliding tracks around the world are usually split between luge, which features a lone athlete (or two athletes in doubles) on a 46-55 pound (21-25kg) sled pulling from a set of gates at the top, and the sport of four-man bobsleigh, where the combined weight of the sled and athletes is over 1,300 pounds and all four athletes sprint from the start.

This weekend, Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb. 2, the Whistler Sliding Centre is playing host to the International Luge Federation (FIL) Luge World Championships. It's the biggest sliding event to take place on the track since the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Here's what you need to know:

How to Watch the events

Tickets to watch the event are $10 and are available online at www.whistler.com, at the information centre outside the Conference Centre or at the venue itself if you bring cash. Kids six and under are free.

There's no event parking, but you can upload the Excalibur Gondola in Skier's Plaza and get out at Base II to access the track, which is a five-minute walk away.

Once inside the venue, there are a lot of different viewing places. Many like to watch at the final corner — also known as Thunderbird — where athletes are travelling the fastest and will exceed 140km/h.

Before the luge starts were lowered as a result of the death of athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili on the opening day of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the top athletes were breaking 155km/h after just once season — and tracks do get faster over time as crews improve and athletes learn the track.

There's an area to watch near the finish line that's near a big screen and which also gives spectators a view of a technical section of track known as the Gold Rush Trail (after Olympic medallist Lyndon Rush), which is sometimes called 50-50 because at one point athletes said you had a 50-50 chance of crashing. A little further up is a high-speed corner known as Shiver, and above that is a corner called Linx where athletes have to make a pair of 90-degree left turns with all the speed they carry out of Corner 7, also known as Lueder's Loop after Canadian bobsledder Pierre Lueders.

Because of concerns about track speeds the men will start between corners two and three, formerly the women's luge start, while the women's and mens doubles have been lowered to the novice start area at Corner 6. As a result the athletes won't come close to the course record of 155km/h set by Germany's Felix Lochin in 2009, but they will still break 140km/h.

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