Careening down Cass: Luge Slider Search returns to Westmont this weekend

You probably won’t find snow and ice on Cass Avenue in Westmont in mid-May.

But you will see luge sleds – a staple of the Winter Olympic Games – when the White Castle USA Luge Slider Search returns to Westmont.

Children ages 10 through 13 will careen down Cass Avenue from Dallas Street on May 18 and 19 on luge sleds, the usual skis replaced with in-line skating wheels.

USA Luge Marketing Director Gordy Sheer explained why Cass Avenue will turn into a luge run.

“There aren’t luge runs around the country like soccer fields or basketball courts. So we are charged with reaching out to people with our sport,” Sheer said. “We look for a gradual hill and we look for kids ages 10 to 13 with no prior experience to come out and try the sport on wheels.”

The goal is to find possible members of the national luge team for future Winter Olympics, he said.

“Maya Chan was discovered in Chicago and she is now a member of our national team,” Sheer said.

Brian Martin, who won silver and bronze medals in doubles, and Erin Hamlin, who won bronze in the singles luge event, both were discovered via the program, Sheer said.

Hamlin is the first female American luger to win a medal and the first of either gender to win a medal in luge singles.

“Since 1992, more than 20 Olympians have come through this program. It’s actually a pretty high percentage,” Sheer said.

Westmont has hosted the event more than any other community, said Larry McIntyre, the village’s communications director.

Cass Avenue north of 55th Street will be closed to traffic, McIntyre said.

“We have the perfect hill for what they’re looking for,” he said. “We had a little bit of a hiatus with COVID-19, but we’re happy to have them back. They were here last year.”

Cass Avenue provides the perfect setting, Sheer said.

“We don’t need a huge hill. We’re not going to send them at breakneck speed, probably 20 mph, somewhere in that neighborhood,” he said.

Luge experts will keep eyes open for children who have body control and the ability to handle the “very drivable” sled, he said.

The search will hit Green Bay, Wisconsin, and New York after Westmont and then resume in the fall on the East Coast.

The top 100 or so participants nationwide will be invited to try the sport on ice at Lake Placid or Colorado.

Clinics in Westmont will begin at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. Participants are asked to sign up before the event.

Best of all, it’s free. Each kid will get a T-shirt. Visit for more information

Each participant gets six to seven runs. Twelve to 13 children are typically in each session.

“The coach, Aidan Kelly, is a 2014 Olympian. He progressively works them to the top of the hill. He wants to make sure everyone is feeling comfortable,” Sheer said.

“We’ve been doing this since 1988. Statistically, you’re safer doing this than playing a game of soccer,” Sheer said.

Luge on ice is “much different” than on pavement, he said. He would know.

Sheer was on the U.S. Olympic luge team in the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Winter Games. He won a silver medal in doubles with Chris Thorpe in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.

“The wheeled sleds, you can really hammer them and they won’t skid like a sled on ice will. It’s much faster,” he said.

How much faster? Luge sleds on ice can top 90 mph.

Sheer’s advice to participants is as follows: “Have fun. Listen to the coach. And enjoy yourself. That’s really what it’s all about.”

And what about that connection with White Castle?

Think about it. The national chain has hamburgers fondly called “sliders.” It’s a natural fit.

“I’ll be honest,” Sheer said. “I had this slider search sponsorship idea for years. Finally, the right person [with White Castle] heard my pitch. We’ve been with them since 2015.”

If you get hungry, don’t look for White Castle. The famous sliders will not be sold on-site.

“Not in Chicago,” Sheer said. “Once in a while we do in Columbus (Ohio), their home base.”