Snowballs: Not Just For Kids

– Laura Lundberg

As a kid, everyone was excited to have a snow day. It meant you got a day off of school to just relax and have fun making snowmen, go sledding and have some epic snowball fights. However, as we get older, the snow days that we are given turn into sleeping in late and visiting friends instead of playing the childish games we once enjoyed. Some still hold those feelings of joy from having a snowball fight, and these people have turned it into a professional, adult sport, known today as Yukigassen.

Yukigassen means snow battle in Japanese, as Japan was the first country to take this game to the next level twenty years ago. The game focuses on two teams of seven players each, and each team has to make their own snowballs using a mold measuring 2.5 – 2.75” balls. The two teams then meet on a court that has erected two home bases, one for each team, as well as two defensive barricades known as “shelters” in the middle of the court. Yukigassen also incorporates some of the elements from the classic game “capture the flag” into its sport, as each team is given a flag to set behind their home base.

The game play is simple. If someone is struck with a snowball, they are automatically out. The way to win is to either successfully hit every opponent, or to capture the other team’s flag. There are three rounds for one match. There is a half-court center line in which no more than three players on your team can cross that line at one time, otherwise that team is penalized. First team to win the majority of rounds wins the match. Here is a clip taken from Fort Edmonton Park in Edmonton, Alberta Canada that highlights the sport of Yukigassen and walks the viewer through each of the steps.

There are currently eight different countries that play Yukigassen, and with it rapidly gaining popularity, Japan has decided to push for Yukigassen to be made a demonstration sport for the next winter Olympics. If the Olympic panel likes what they see, they’ll make the sport an official Olympic event in their future winter games.

The United States is the newest country to bring the sport of Yukigassen to its shores. It is most popular in Alaska and Wisconsin, and there are over thirteen cities that have registered Yukigassen teams. Check out the website for Yukigassen USA here, and be sure to look out for it as a contender for the next sport in the winter Olympics!

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