Hunts' Guide to The Upper Peninsula

Lucy Hill Naturbahn Luge

Lucy Hill Luge
Courtesy Upper Peninsula Luge Club
The bottom section used also by those with sleds.

Lucy Hill Naturbahn Luge

North America's only "naturbahn" luge, used by Olympic hopefuls at Northern Michigan University's training facility, is open to the public on weekend afternoons when there's a good snow base.

Details are on the volunteer association's web site, It explains that a naturbahn is a "natural, unrefrigerated hill, bordered by boards and snow banks. [Its} sled is similar to an old-fashioned wooden sled with metal runners.

"Naturbahn athletes steer the sled with their feet, hands, and bodies. They use their bodies to speed up, slow down, and steer the sled around the corners of the icy track."

On the scenic, winding course, public sledders start significantly lower down than prospective Olympians, so speeds are not nearly as great, and injuries are very rare, though still possible, of course. (Public lugers sign waivers.)

It's an exciting, unusual way to spend the afternoon. First-timers are common, and groups encouraged. Handicapped people can sled, too. The club has one handicapped member; it's working to make the course more accessible.

Participants are given patient instruction and provided with a helmet and boots. Warm clothes and gloves are a must.

The public is welcome to watch club members practice any time. Check the website for times, and for the schedule of races held two or three times a year. Every Friday is a free family fun night for parents and children under 18. Membership fees are quite lowó$45/family/season. "We're hoping to catch potential enthusiasts young," says U.S. Naturbahn Luge Coach Tammy Wills. She was introduced to the sport when she was nine, and it instantly clicked.

The season begins in late December or early January and lasts into early or mid March.
From U.S. 41, turn south on Teal Lake Ave. at Holiday, then go west onto Main St., south on Pioneer, east on "County Road." Follow luge signs. (906) 475-LUGE for return call. Open weekends in winter, most likely noon to 4 p.m. $10/person. Handicap access: call.

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