NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – The Upper Peninsula Luge Club will have Lucy Hill, the only full-length natural luge track in the United States, open for sliding to the public this weekend for the Heikki Lunta Winter Festival.
“It’s a competitive sport, it’s a very popular sport in Europe,” said Robb Cookman, president of the U.P. Luge Club. “There are many towns in Austria, Italy, Germany that they have their own luge track. Some of them are the World Cup competition tracks some of them are smaller. It’s a way to expel some energy and go fast!”
The track was designed by a Swedish engineer in 1990.
“One of the things about our track is that Lucy Mine was one of the iron mines in the area. And if you look on our maps, all of the corners on the 29-named corners on this track are all named after all the different mines in the area. One of the big corners at the top overlooks the Empire Mine and so, of course, that corner is the Empire.”
U.S. athletes train at Lucy Hill to prepare for World Cup and World Championship competitions in Europe. The last World Cup that was held in Negaunee was in 1995.
“It’s a flat track, so artificial [tracks] they have their bank sides, they’re hitting speeds of 90 mph. On these tracks, the competitive athletes hit about 60 mph […] On a flat track, you can see their walls are wood walls. They want to stay off those things. And so they’ll be sitting there, they’ll be reaching out they’ll be pulling on their reigns, they’ll be turning the kufins with their feet. There’s a lot more body movement in flat track so they’re trying to steer on a flat surface,” said Cookman.
Jacob Sterk is a member of the U.P. Luge Club and travels nearly every weekend from Minnesota to train and compete at Lucy Hill.
“It’s just so much adrenaline it’s awesome. The feeling you get just out of body experience. It’s so cool. I’ve competed in races here I’ve never gone to Europe, hoping to get there sometime, sounds super fun,” said Sterk.
Simon Barrett is from the Marquette area and this is his second year with the club.
“Well, I had a lot of free time in the winter and I needed to stay active, keep my mind on something. And I heard about it from a friend, so I went out here and loved it. It’s great going downhill super fast, got to make split-second decisions It’s pretty fun,” said Barrett.
Alongside the competitive track is a shorter track for the public to use.
“When the public comes out and they want to slide, we always start everybody out at the maple tree. We want to make it safe, we want them to show us they have control. Then we move up the track, they get more speed, there are lots of squeals, they’re happy and joyful,” said Cookman.
On Friday, January 28 the U.P. Luge Club will be hosting public sliding from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Lucy Hill. On Saturday, January 29 the hill will be open again from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration and regular rates apply.
U.P. Luge Club offers public sliding nearly every Friday and Saturday through March. To register to luge down Lucy Hill, you can go to upluge.org. The club provides sleds, helmets, and braking shoes.