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Man spent decades perfecting luge in his yard


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    HASTINGS, Minnesota (WCCO) — Sometimes you win. Sometimes you “luge.” But in the city of Hastings, winning is luging. Especially when 78-year-old Paul Swanstrom gets involved.

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us how decades of perfecting the luge is now drawing a crowd.

A morning spent at the Swanstrom residence is a morning full of twists and turns.

“It’s a ton of fun,” said Julia Viktora-Croke, Hastings. “It’s faster and it’s sharp turns so it’s more difficult to stay on.”

Kids who are used to straight, downhill sledding, are now learning how to have old-school fun with a fast-paced twist. And it’s all thanks to former science teacher, Paul Swanstrom.

“I made these things before we even heard about the luge,” said Paul.

In the early 70s, Paul decided to create a sort of “snow slide” for his son. What he thought might be a one-time deal, has turned into decades of perfecting the luge.

“Mostly it’s trial and error,” said Paul. “It takes me at least 40 hours before I can go down it the first time even.”

He needs Mother Nature and Old Man Winter to bring him just the right amount of snow and just the right temperatures.

Over several days he’ll gather snow from his street and driveway and stack it up from his front yard to backyard — 200 feet to be exact. There are four different banks with some as high as 4 feet. Then he’ll water it all down for those who have a need for speed.

Always the teacher, Paul even takes time to educate on form and technique.

“Right in town in Hastings it’s nice to have someone who will do that and invite anyone in town to come and enjoy it, especially for free,” said Casey Hedeen, who is trying the luge for the first time.

Paul takes it a day at a time and a winter at a time. This year, because of Covid, he wanted to give people something fun to do. And as long as they avoid the tree at the end it’s mission accomplished.

So, what does he hope people get out of it?

“Fun. Fun and memories,” he said. “This is where I get the fun right now.”

Since the weather hasn’t always cooperated, Paul estimates he’s built anywhere from 25 to 30 luges over the years.

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