NewSliders.com Skeleton FAQ

Photo of skeleton slider
(Photo from David Mayer's site)

1) Wow, are you skeleton people certifiably insane or what? This sports looks dangerous!

While many sliders are extreme-sports enthusiasts or speed junkies, most of them are sane. Skeleton obviously has its inherent risks, but the sport isn't as dangerous as it seems. Sure, participants frequently get scrapes and bruises (mostly on the arms and shoulders), but severe injuries are uncommon. "Only" one participant has died so far, in a freak accident. If you're obsessed with safety, you should probably stick to a sport like billiards or table tennis. But statistics indicate many sports--such as scuba diving, skydiving, and hang gliding -- suffer many more incidents of severe injuries or deaths.

2) Why is it called 'skeleton'?

Some folks say it's either derived from the German word for sled, or because the sled resembles a skeleton. Or, as someone else jokingly noted, it's because its "first participant crashed horribly and all that was recovered was his skeleton."

3) I want to be a spectator--how can I watch skeleton?

Skeleton tracks always welcome spectators (note: camera flashes disallowed because they can distract sliders).

As for TV, the sport's governing body (FIBT) provides a TV schedule. The sport is very popular in Europe and races are broadcast throughout the season, although broadcasts in the US are rare during non-Olympic years.

4) Hey, skeleton sounds cool. How do I participate?

Welcome to the sport. Admittedly skeleton isn't the most accessible of sports -- for one thing, the skeleton season typically lasts only from November through March (although many tracks also have push tracks to practice starts during the offseason).

Also, there are only 16 tracks in the world (and another to open in Russia for the 2014 Olympics), including four in North America: Utah Olympic Park in Park City, UT; the track in Lake Placid, New York; Canada Olympic Park in Calgary; and Whistler Olympic Park near Vancouver, Canada.

To sign up for a skeleton class, just contact the track directly. You can also check whether there's a local skeleton association offering a website with more info, such as the Track Club at Whistler (Canada) or Alberta Skeleton (Canada).

The types of classes available depend on the track. For example, as of early 2010, Utah Olympic Park offered introductory 3-hour clinics on selected dates for $150 and occasionally offers week-long classes for $600 (see their website link above, or contact sportservices [@] olyparks.com or (435) 658-4208).

Most the equipment you'll need will be provided for you. Also, please read my "crash course" guide on skeleton for beginners, which lists requirements and things you can expect in anticipation of your first slide.

5) Do you recommend any specific tracks or classes?

I recommend signing up for the week-long skeleton class in January 2011 in Park City, UT, which will culminate with the Utah Winter Games, a big race catering to any interested first-timers (not just experienced sliders). I'll probably be there to assist the coaches, and will post more details on the forum as they become available (the park should have more details when the next season opens around November). 

While the track in Lake Placid, NY has traditionally been hostile to first-timers, they recently started offering brief lessons to the public. The LP track also offers invitation-only classes to selected individuals who meet athletic criteria. In my opinion, Park City is more friendly to new sliders than LP for many reasons (including the latter track being somewhat more "technical," or rougher turns), but LP is still a fine choice if that's the only track you can visit.

6) I live nowhere near a track, what can I do?

Although you can practice push starts by building a wheeled sled, unfortunately you can't practice driving off the track. You could also consider alternative activities, like airboarding (which is basically skeleton on an inflatable sled down a ski slope) or street luge.

7) I want to slide competitively, perhaps in the Olympics someday. Do you have any advice for me?

Sure, see my "How to become an Olympic skeleton athlete" FAQ.

8) Who's behind this website?

I created NewSliders.com back in 2005 because it was hard to find useful info on the sport -- I wanted more people to learn about skeleton, thereby lending the sport greater popularity among both spectators and participants. I can be reached at george - type the at sign - then this domain dotcom

I was previously a slider on the USBSF development team at the Park City, Utah track. I competed in several regional races, starting with the 2006 Pioneer Cup (finishing last among 16 sliders) and ending with the 2008 Utah Winter Games (silver medal in the Open division). Although I retired from sliding after moving away from the track, I continue to be involved in the sport. I've volunteered as a race official, assisted coaches in training and recruiting new sliders, and generated publicity for the sport in various publications. I was also part of a movement highlighting USBSF mismanagement, which helped trigger the US Olympic Committee's reform of the federation years ago, in hopes of better serving the skeleton community.

9) I like your site, what can I do to support it?

Thanks, you could tell your friends about the sport and this site, and post questions/comments on my forum (just email me to set you up, since auto-registration is deactivated).