Luge track ready for this winter

Construction of the first ice luge in the southern hemisphere should be completed by winter, allowing Naseby residents and visitors to participate in the downhill adrenaline rush.

The $200,000, 400m-long luge track is being built by a team of Maniototo volunteers during a series of working bees, the next of which will take place tomorrow.

New Zealand Olympic Luge Association president Geoff Balme said most of the timber posts had been put in place, and boards were being fitted to form the base of the luge.

A refrigeration system of pipes would be placed on top of the boards, and covered with ‘‘crusher dust'', after which snow would form the surface and be packed and smoothed down, Mr Balme said.

A snow-making machine would be used once temperatures were cool enough, and the refrigeration system was connected to the indoor curling rink and operating well.

Mr Balme said about $25,000 of funding was expected to be granted soon, after which between $10,000 and $25,000 would be needed to finish the project.

Construction was expected to cost about $150,000, and an additional $50,000 would be spent on upgrading equipment and maintenance costs.

Developed in part by the New Zealand Olympic Luge Association and the Maniototo International Curling Rink, the ice luge had received funding grants from organisations throughout New Zealand and overseas.

German and Italian involvement in the project was strong, and Mr Balme said the luge association hoped to bring more qualified foreigners to New Zealand to help with the development.

The luge was situated beside and behind the existing international indoor curling rink and an outdoor skating rink in Naseby.

It snaked through pine on a sloping hill surface, which Mr Balme said was a perfect site as it was within an existing ice sport infrastructure, and water, power, and other amenities were able to be connected up without too much difficulty.

The luge had a gradient of 7.5% over a total fall of 22.5m from the top to bottom, and most people would reach a maximum speed of 60kmh on a sled.

Mr Balme said if funding was secured in time, the luge would be open at the end of May, otherwise it would be a matter of waiting for the snow to fall.

‘‘There will definitely be something going on there this year, that's for sure,'' he said.

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