Austria's former luge world champion Jonas Müller completed the first official run on a new track in Bludenz ©Getty Images

A new artificial ice track in Bludenz in Austria has been inaugurated ready for use by junior and youth athletes during the 2021-2022 International Luge Federation (FIL) and International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) seasons, with Austria's former luge world champion Jonas Müller completing the first run.

Billed as the world's "most affordable ice track," construction took two years and cost approximately €8 million (£7 million/$9.5 million).

It used a prefabricated concrete element and features a cooling pipe network, with the new construction method developed by the Research Centre for Snow, Ski and Alpine Sports at the University of Innsbruck, working with the Austrian Luge Federation.

There is a start for luge, bobsleigh and skeleton runs, and the FIL and IBSF both supported the project.

The track is approximately 700 metres in length with six curves.

It begins at 736.6m above sea level, declining 43.3m with a maximum gradient of 10.5 per cent.

Costs rose from an initial estimate of €6.8 million (£5.8 million/$7.9 million) after the track needed to be roofed due to its proximity to a nature reserve, which is home to endangered plants and animals.

It had been hoped that Bludenz could host the 2020 Junior Luge World Championships, but this was moved to Oberhof in Germany with the track unable to be completed in time.

Test operations were conducted at the end of the 2020-2021 season, and the artificial track was officially opened ready for this season at a ceremony which welcomed several guests and athletes.

The 2019 men's sprint gold medallist at the FIL World Championships Müller completed the first official run on the new track.

FIL President Einars Fogelis claimed the new artificial track offered an important example of affordable construction that could be replicated elsewhere.

"Bludenz is a successful reference for the construction of cost-effective artificial ice tracks also in other countries," Fogelis said.

"The ice track is of great importance for Austria, but also for the neighbouring countries Switzerland and Liechtenstein and above all for youth work."

The IBSF vice-president for finance Andreas Trautvetter declared it "a great day for the sport of bobsleigh, skeleton and luge".

The track in Bludenz is scheduled to host the sixth leg of the FIL Junior World Cup and the Junior European Championships on January 15 and 16 next year.