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The Stories Behind 5 of the World’s Weirdest Winter Sports (One Got Kicked out of the X Games)

Snow provides endless opportunities for fun. For some, classic winter sports like skiing or snowboarding are great ways to experience an adrenaline rush in nature. However, the following sports came into existence because people were thinking outside of the box and trying out new ways to enjoy snow and ice.

Read on to discover the history behind some weird winter sports from around the world. Is it time to try something new this snow season?   

Snowball Fighting – Japan 

The Japanese competition known as Yukigassen is a professional snowball fight. There are seven players on each team, and players are eliminated when hit by a snowball. With similar rules to Capture the Flag, it is played on a court and players wear helmets and face shields. There are up to 90 snowballs made in advance of the start time. It started in the mid-1980s, but now there are tournaments held around the world, including Finland, Norway, and Alaska. 

Snow Polo – Switzerland 

The first-ever snow polo match was played on a frozen Lake St. Moritz in Switzerland in 1985. The annual Snow Polo World Cup, a glamorous affair, is held in St. Moritz every year. The sport is a modified version of regular polo, played on horseback, and the horses wear special cleated shoes for better traction on the surface. It is also played in Aspen, Colorado, and there is an official FIP (Federation of International Polo) annual tournament held in China. 

Curling – Scotland 

One of the more unusual sports to watch in the Winter Olympics, curling has been popular for generations in Scotland and dates back to the early 16th century. A team sport, it involves sliding stones towards a target. The stone’s path can be controlled by sweeping brush movements, allowing the stone to move closer towards the target zone. In the early days, it could be played on frozen ponds with stones. Now, there are indoor and outdoor curling clubs all over Scotland. It has been part of the Winter Olympic Games since 1998 and includes mens, womens, and mixed doubles competitions. 

Shovel Racing – USA 

A sport thought to have originated in the 1970s in New Mexico’s ski resorts, shovel racing is exactly what you might imagine it to be. It involves racing down a snowy hill on a snow shovel. It is deemed a very dangerous sport, and it featured once in the Winter-X Games in 1997, but it never appeared again after a competitor was injured at high speed.

Snow Tubing – Canada 

winter sports
A man and a child snow tubing. (Source: Tatiana Maksimova / Getty Images)

If learning to ski or snowboard feels like too much of a commitment, there’s always snow tubing. It requires little skill or technique; you simply sit in an inflatable tube and glide down a mountainside. The origins of snow tubing are a little unclear, but it may date back to the 1800s and was invented by the Canadian Prime Minister to entertain members of Parliament on a snow day. It’s not likely to become an Olympic sport any time soon, but the experience is offered at many large ski resorts across the U.S., and it offers a great family-friendly winter activity.  

Looking for more weird winter sports? Discover luge, snow kayaking, ski ballet, and more. 

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  1. Yurt Dorblensen

    This cannot be considered a definitive or even authoritative list without skijoring, Finnish ice track racing, or alpine pond skimming.

  2. You missed the annual Art Sled Rally in Minneapolis. See which manned crazy work of art makes it to the bottom of the hill at Powderhorn Park.

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