Getting to know… Winterberg, Germany

Until March 8, some of Canada’s top sliders will be in the North Rhine region of Germany for the FIBT Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships.

Winterberg boasts one of four sliding centres in Germany but what else is it known for?

Founded in approximately 1270, Winterberg is located in central Germany, 155km north of Frankfurt, and has a population of almost 13,000 people.

Overhead view of the sliding track at Winterberg during the summer months.

Overhead view of the sliding track at Winterberg during the summer months (Wikimedia).

The bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track has been in Winterberg since 1977. It received a facelift in 2006 to meet new international standards and features 15 turns over 1330m and a vertical drop of 110m. The last world championship held in Winterberg was the 2003 Women’s Bobsleigh where Germany swept the podium.

The Winterberg track is also home to a rather interesting event, having hosted the inaugural World Wok Racing Championships.

Woks? Yes, woks. If your first thought is that this sport can’t possibly exist, there is video evidence and it is every bit as fantastic as you would think.

Think of modified luge where contestants race down an ice track while sitting on a Chinese wok. The event was created in 2003 as a made-for-TV competition for mostly B-list celebrities and some professional athletes. The winner of nine wok championships is three-time Olympic luge champion George Hackl. But other Olympic champions have also entered, including Armin Zöggeler, Felix Loch and Sandra Kiriasis.

There are individual and four-person competitions. Competitors wear what is the equivalent of hockey equipment for protection while strapping ladles to their feet and hands to be able to steer. Qualification for the championships (yes there is qualification!) involves racers riding their wok off a ski jump and landing in a pool of water with the distance travelled determining the starting order.

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If you prefer to stand while you slide down an icy hill, Winterberg is home to a wonderful ski resort called Skiliftkarussell. Designed more for beginner or intermediate skiers and snowboarders, the Winterberg Ski Resort has 27 ski lifts, 34 runs, and a height of 830m. It does have an FIS slalom run on Kappe Hill and the St. George ski jump which used to be the home of the German Championships in Nordic Combined.

Skiliftkarussell during the winter.

Skiliftkarussell during the winter (Wikimedia)