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Bobsleigh and Children - FAQs

9 March 2024

Bobsleighing, or bobsledding, is a relatively new sport, developed in Switzerland in the 1860s. Now it is a globally recognised sport with a firm place at the Olympic winter games. 

If you are unsure, bobsleighing is a fast-paced race. Teams have a vehicle in which they jump inside and use gravity and technique to see how fast they can make it down the track. Modern tracks are concrete based but covered in ice. Teams compete against each other, and the times of four races determine the winner.

Bobsledding is fun and full of adrenaline and it isn’t dubbed Formula 1 on ice for no reason. Read on to find out a little more about the sport.

Is bobsleighing the same as tobogganing?

Although similar, bobsleighing and tobogganing are different. Bobsleighing refers only to the winter sport, which is structured, highly regulated and carried out on a set track. Tobogganing is similar to sledging, with slight differences in the size and design of the vehicle. Tobogganing still occurs on snow and ice; however, it was traditionally used for transport and is now for fun.

Is bobsleighing dangerous?

To maximise safety, all riders must wear safety equipment, including helmets, goggles, spike shoes, and a protective uniform. Brakemen must also wear kevlar vests which reduce the chances of friction burns.

There is always the chance that a bobsledding run will go a little wrong, and riders will crash because they are going so fast. However, riders are trained very carefully and will only use a bobsledding track when they are ready and have the required skills.

Can you Bobsleigh in the UK?

Understandably, the UK climate does not match Europe's snowy and icy mountainous regions. This alone makes it one of the rare sports to take up in the UK. Because the British Isles do not have the weather, any facilities are concrete, and across the nation, they are few and far between. If you want to try this sport, your best bet is to head towards the slopes of Switzerland or Eastern Europe.

How can I introduce my child to Bobsleighing?

To help your child get a feel for whether they may like bobsleighing, the best thing to do is get them started on a sledge, which will help them understand the feeling of sliding and turning. If they enjoy it, it may be something to pursue. 

Another way to see whether they like it is to try out family-friendly toboggan runs,  such as Chattam or Swadlincote Snowsport Centre. Here they can ride with their parents from the age of 4.

At What Age Can My Child Start Bobsleighing?

Children who are serious about bobsleighing will need to be patient. Because of its nature, many European clubs will only accept children aged 16+ because this is when they will have developed the skills, strength and coordination to steer and power the vehicle. They will also know how to react if things go wrong at this age. However, in the meantime, children can start sledging and tobogganing, following strict safety guidelines from around 4 years old.

Photo by Yan Krukau

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