SPIRIT OF THE NORTH: Learning to LugeSubmitted: 02/19/2014
Story By Hayley Tenpas

NEGAUNEE, MICHIGAN - Imagine a sport where you slide 65 miles per hour down a steep, curved, icy slope.

That sport would be the luge.

There's only one place in America where anyone can simply drive in and learn to luge.

That's Negaunee, Michigan.

"It's definitely a rush going down the ice," said second time slider Wesley McDermott.

"My biggest kick is when they come up and they have this gigantic smile on their face," said coach Jessica Straczeowski.

Lucy Hill in Negaunee, Michigan is a natural luge hill, winding down a steep slope surrounded by snow.

"They look like an ice rink that's tilted 45 degrees," said Straczeowski.

Although similar to the event you'll see in Sochi, Negaunee's track is completely flat.

"Our athletes actually have to sit up to brake, to slow down before corners," said Straczeowski.

The track isn't refrigerated or as fast as the one in Sochi.

"They go like 65 mph instead of 90 mph," said Straczeowski.

But the journey to the top of the hill starts with learning the rules, and once you're geared up, it's go time!

"It's speedy! You just get your adrenaline running and you're on a sled and you're only this high off the ice and the ice makes a sound like, shhhhhhkkkeewwwwww," said Straczeowski.

Many athletes learn about luge in Negaunee and eventually switch to an artificial track like ones in Sochi.

"Our club feeds into the USLA, Lake Placid, so we have sliders from here who are participating in the Olympics artificial track," said Straczeowski.

Luge has been in the Olympics since 1964.

This year the USA picked up the first ever medal in women's luge this year.

"There's so much once you do it, it captures your heart," said Straczeowski.

You can learn to luge with the Upper Peninsula luge club on Saturdays. That's when it's open to the public.

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