A Short History of Bobsledding

Fast, furious, dangerous and thrilling describes bobsledding ,but how did it all begin? Sledding had always been popular in the Northern hemisphere band bobsledding didn’t evolve until the 1800’s. People were looking for something to do during the winter months in places such as St Moritz Switzerland. This location was important for the evolution of bobsledding. Bobsledding evolved because tourists were looking for entertainment during the winter months in St Moritz. They adapted sleds and used the alleys and roads as a track in the town. Boards and steering were also added to the sleds.

The danger of colliding with pedestrians was a common complaint by people in St Moritz. The dangers lead to the first ice track with a half pipe in the 1870’s. The sport also developed further when a competition started down the Cresta run of St Moritz in 1884. Clubs began to open from the 1890s and the International Bobsleigh and Skelton Federation (FIBT) was founded in 1923. This was important for making the sport more accepted and organised. The sport was included in the first Olympic Games of 1924. The first Olympics only included four-man bobsledding competitions. The two-man bobsledding competition came into being during the 1932 Olympics.

Women have always been involved with bobsledding since its creation but they were not allowed to participate in two-woman bobsled competition until the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. However, women’s bobsleigh competition started in March 1983 when there were women demonstration races during the World Cup of that year.

Countries from Northern Europe and Scandanvia have had the most success in bobsled competitions. Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Italy and the United States currently dominate the sport. This is probably due to the long winter months and access to world-class tracks or coaching in these countries.

Bobsleds crews have changed over the years from large teams of five or six to two and four-person crews seen in competitions of today. Bobsleds tracks were originally natural tracks with no refrigeration. The first bobsled tracks were straight. Modern tracks are now made of concrete and covered with ice. Twists and turns were added gradually over the years. The bobsled has changed materials and weight many times. The original bobsleds were mostly wooden but have changed to fibreglass and metal with more aerodynamic frames to increase the speed.

Bobsledding history demonstrates how a simple sport started for entertainment evolved into an incredibly fast sport with teams of people dedicated to training and better designs of clothing, equipment and bobsleds. Competitions, crews, tracks and training have changed due to many years of trial and error. This has created the modern bobsledding sport that everyone is familiar with today.