Skeleton is a winter sport which involves individual sliding while riding a small sled. The slider goes down a frozen track face down and head-first. Unlike bobsleigh and luge, this sport has only an individual category. The sled is thinner but heavier than the one used in luge. Thanks to this. the slider has more control over the sled. This makes Skeleton much safer than luge or bobsleigh. However, it also makes the sport the slowest of all three.

Skeleton Intro
Welcome to Skeleton

The sport became a part of the Olympic program back in 1928 and then again in 1948. However, Skeleton was permanently added to the Winter Olympics in 2002. At that point, the sporting event added a women’s race as well. The speed at which the sled goes is usually over 130 km/h. The competition is controled by the same organization as Bobsleigh. It’s known as IBSF (International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation) and it’s in charge of organizing all the tournaments in these sports. For more information on the subject, check their official website.

History of Skeleton

The history of the sport begins at the same place as Bobsleigh and Luge. First, it appeared in St. Moritz, Switzerland and then spread all over the world. At that time, there was a popular British sport called Cresta sledding. Even though the sports are different, Skeleton and Cresta sledding have a lot of similarities. In 1884, Major William Bulpett, with the backing of winter sports pioneer and Kulm hotel owner Caspar Badrutt, constructed Cresta Run, the first sledding track of its kind in St. Moritz.

This is how the sport became a part of the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948 which were held in St. Moritz. However, Skeleton didn’t get a permanent place in the Olympics until 2002. From it’s inception there have been only few changes. In 1887 during the Grand National competition which was held in St. Moritz as well, Mr. Cornish suggested a change. He introduced to the competitors, the head-first position which is used today. By 1890 it was fully accepted and is still used today.


Nevertheless, the international expansion of Skeleton didn’t happen until 1905. First it spread from Switzerland to Austria and then to the rest of the world. However, it’s biggest expansion happened after the sport became a part of the Winter Olympics in 2002. Since then, countries that don’t have Skeleton tracks or can’t have them because of climate have joined the sport. The IBSF has a support program for these “emerging nations”. The program provides travel, coaching, and equipment funding assistance to countries which have neither a track nor three qualified pilots in three IBSF disciplines.

Rules & Equipment

The most important part of Skeleton is the sled and the equipment that the athlete needs to wear. Through the years, there have been a lot of changes to the sled as it was allowed for it to be made form different materials.


In 2010, the IBSF restricted the materials with which skeleton sleds are permitted to be made. Sled frames must be made of steel and may not include steering or braking mechanisms. The base plate, however, may be made of plastics. The handles and bumpers found along the sides of the sled help secure the athlete during a run. Additionally, the Skeleton sleds have specifications and dimensions that have to be followed.

  • Maximum combined weight (sled + athlete) is 115 kg for men and 92 kg for women.
  • Maximum sled weight is 43 kg for men and 35 kg for women.
  • In case the weight can’t be reached, ballasts can be added to the sled for additional weight.
  • The Dimensions of the Skeleton Sled are as follows: Length: 80–120 cm; Height: 8–20 cm.


  • Alpine racing helmet with chin guard, or a skeleton-specific helmet;
  • Skin-tight racing speedsuit made of uncoated textile material;
  • Spiked shoes, similar to track spikes;
  • Goggles or face shields;
  • Optional elbow and shoulder pads under their suits;
  • Sled.


Even though Skeleton hasn’t been around as an Olympic Sport for a long time, there are a lot of competitions for it. The IBSF organizes four competitive circuits for international skeleton competition, in three tiers: two Continental Cups, the Intercontinental Cup (ICC), and the top level World Cup. The racers get points for how well they do at each of these competitions. At the end, not only are there rankings for each circuit separately but also there are overall rankings across all four circuits.

On top of this, there are annual World Championships which are held every year except the years when there is Winter Olympics. However, just like with any other winter sport, the Olympics are the biggest and most important tournament for Skeleton athletes.

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