‘Natural luge’ — something ‘anyone can do’ — debuts at the Loup
By Marcy Stamper
You can banish the intimidating visions of luges careening down steep tracks of ice — the new luge sleds that debuted at the Loup ski hill this past weekend are “natural luge.”
Natural luge is done on snow in nimble wooden sleds that can be steered, slowed and even stopped, said Steve Nelson, who, with his wife, Julie, just launched the brand-new luge course at the Loup Loup Ski Bowl.
The Loup bought 26 sleds — 14 single and 12 double — becoming only the second luge operation in the United States, said Steve Nelson.
The ski hill converted most of its Nordic trail system to luge runs, which offer a variety of descents, from gently winding to more challenging. They’ve also installed safety netting at sharp corners, and a warming hut.
Luge sledders can walk to the lower trails or take the Loup’s newly acquired 1970s-era snowcat to the top of Bear Mountain for a longer descent and spectacular views. Guides will help sledders descend from Bear Mountain. “The ride up is an absolute adventure,” said Nelson.
Offering natural luge was appealing as a way of extending choices for visitors, since luge is less expensive than lift tickets and is fun for non-skiers. It’s also a way to extend activities in low-snow winters, said C.P. Grosenick, general manager of the ski hill.
“It’s really something anyone can do,” said Nelson, who took the first luge group out over the weekend. “Everyone did tremendously on the steeper sections. Luge is easy to learn and challenging to master.”
Rare in U.S.
Natural luge is popular in Europe, but still little known in the United States. The Loup’s fleet of sleds were made in Austria, since there were none made in the United States, said Nelson.
The Loup is offering free luge clinics and demos all week — 45 minutes of instruction in steering, turning and stopping on two practice hills near the lodge. Steve and Julie Nelson, both Alpine ski coaches at the Loup, recently completed luge-training certification at a university near Edmonton in Canada.
The clinics and demos are offered every day through New Year’s Day, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
People wanting to take the luges higher on the mountain can get a ticket for the snowcat to Bear Mountain for $23, or for two hours on the lower mountain for $18 (both include the luge rental). Additional snowcat rides are $13 (also available for people with their own sleds or those who want to snowshoe from the top of Bear Mountain). Use of the lower trails for people with their own sleds is $16.
The Loup is also open for downhill skiing — with the junior poma and rope tows — starting Wednesday (Dec. 27). The entire ski area, with chairlifts to the top of the mountain, opens on Friday (Dec. 29). Tubing and luge are available all week. Hours for all activities are 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., with luge snowcat runs to Bear Mountain at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.
After New Year’s, the Loup resumes its regular schedule and is open on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.