How Bobsledding Works

By: Tracy V. Wilson

Bobsledding History

Two man bobsleigh champions Ivan Brown and Alan Washbond in action at the 1936 Winter Olympics, which was held at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bobsledding began in 1877 in Davos, Switzerland, when people added a steering wheel to a normal sled. The first bobsledding club formed in 1897 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Most of the first bobsled runs were snow-covered roads, and for years it was a popular recreational sport, particularly for the wealthy. It had the sort of popularity that skiing has today. The sport's name comes from the way early teams bobbed their heads to try to gain more speed on straight portions of the run.

Bobsledding has been an Olympic event since the first Winter Olympic Games in 1932. At that time, the only competition was a four-man race. Two-man events were added in 1932. Only men competed at the Olympic level until the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, when two-woman teams began competing. The only Winter Olympic Games that have not included bobsledding were the 1960 games in Squaw Valley, California, when too few teams expressed interest in competing.


Until the 1950s, most bobsledders were big and brawny. But in 1952, new rules governing the maximum weight of a bobsled and its passengers went into effect. At that point, bobsledders became highly-trained athletes who were very strong but light enough to fit the rules' weight requirements. Teams from all over the world have competed in bobsledding, including those from countries known for their warm climates, like Jamaica and Puerto Rico.

Check out the links below for lots more information on bobsledding and other Olympic sports.

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More Great Links


  • Bobsled Course Analysis Simulation. Takenaka Corporation, 2001.
  • Bobsleigh History & Spectator Guide, FIBT, 2005.
  • Bobsleigh, luge and skeleton facility, Cesana Torinese. L'Agenzia Torino 2006.
  • "Everything You Need to Know about Bobsled." Washington Post, 1997.
  • Jordan, R.G. "Motion and Movement." Science of Everday Life lecture series, Life Long Learning Society, Florida Atlantic University, 1998.
  • Kuhn, Karl F. "Basic Physics: A Self-teaching Guide." John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1979. ISBN 0471030112.
  • Official Bobsleigh Rules, FIBT, 2003.
  • Qualification System for Olympic Games, Torino, FIBT, 2006.
  • Romagnolo, Salvatore. "How to Construct a Bobsled." Torino 2006. October 15, 2003.
  • Romagnolo, Salvatore. "Material Engineering Improves the Performance of Woman Bobsleighers." Torino 2006. May 11, 2004.
  • St. Mortiz Olympic Bobsled Run. Tourist Office St. Moritz.