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10 Beyond Weird Winter Sports

Most winter sports seem to have been designed by a madman. After all, what rational person would think to strap blades or boards to their feet and careen down an icy slope? But believe it or not, snow sports can get even crazier. Here’s a few winter events that will make you questions the participants’ insanity, but perhaps want to join them all the same.

Skijoring©istockphoto/proxyminderFrom the Norwegian word for “ski driving,” skijoiring is when a particularly brave or foolhardy skiier is towed by a horse, dogs, or a vehicle. Sometimes participants will mix in jumps and slaloms while being pulled. A special harness with quick release buckles can be used, or participants may hold onto a handle similar to that used in water skiing. So if you have snow, skis, and a fast dog, horse, or car, you don’t need a mountain to go fast. You’ll need a good helmet though—a fall looks like it could be wicked.

Shovel and Wok Racing

Have you ever looked at the shovel in your garage, or the wok in your kitchen, and said, I should ride that down a hill? Yeah, me neither, but the participants of this sports think a little different than you and I. Simply put, participants replace a sled with a shovel or wok, riding down a snowy hill or icy track. Shovel racing was once in the Winter X-Games, but removed due to safety conncerns. Yeah, this was deemed too dangerous for the X-Games. So give it a shot knowing it scared the same people that promote snowmobile backflips

Yukigassen\This sport, Japanese for “snow battle,” takes snowball fights to the level of professional warfare. Two teams with seven players are each given 90 snow balls, placed on a small court, then go about bombarding each other. Players attempt to capture their opponent’s flag and are eliminated when hit. Players will wear special helmet and face shields to protect them from the projectiles, and will often employ snow barriers. And you thought you took snowball fights seriously as a kid.

Ice Blockingice blockingYou don’t necessarily need winter to play this sport, because you bring the ice with you. The sport is essentially sledding, except participants slide down a hill with nothing but a big block of ice to ride on. Some will place burlap over the ice as a crude seat, or freeze a rope handle into the ice block to hold onto during their descent. The sport is popular on college campuses, because few old people would think of riding a cold, top-heavy ice block down a grassy hill. As a plus, though, no other sports equipment is probably so easily disposed of. When you’re done, leave your sled to melt, or just pop the remains in your cooler.

Ice DivingIce_Diving_2Perhaps you’ve heard of the polar bear plunge, where men dive into near freezing water. Ice diving escalates the craziness by scuba diving into frozen lakes or rivers. Because most of the water surface is frozen, there is typically only one entry and exit point for divers, increasing the danger, although generally the diver is tethered for safety. Dangers can include being swept under an ice sheet and away from rescue, rising suddenly and impacting the ice surface, or even scuba equipment icing over. It may be cold comfort to those with a fear of drowning or freezing, but ice divers say the views, and the chance to go where few others have, is worth the risk.

Ski Ballet

This sport must’ve established when skiiers determined that ice skaters shouldn’t hog all the glory, or some skiiers got really drunk and decided to do some interpretive dancing. Either way, ski ballerinas perform a routine while navigating down a hill, complete with acrobatic spins, kicks, and twirls. Like ice dancing, the routine is usually performed to music, with ski ballet compositions lasting around 90 seconds. Like ice skating, a graceful partner can even be added to make it a pair event. The sport has mostly died off, but that’s no reason not to try it yourself. It’s guaranteed to turn some heads at the ski resort this winter—for better or worse.

Speed Flying

A combination of extreme sports, speed riders start as skiiers, and end as skydivers. That’s right, skiiers will start at the top of the mountain, then launch themselves off a cliff, parachuting to the bottom. As they approach the cliff, riders will launch the parachute, or speed wing, and glide for several minutes before touching down. So if you want a sport that makes you feel like you’re James Bond escaping pursuers, this could be right up your alley.

Ice Cross Downhill

Speed skating is impressive, but how about adding some gravity? Ice cross downhill is a race down a steep, icy walled track with sharp turns and high vertical drops. Racers need to be fast, but also tough, so ice hockey players are common competitors. The sport has a popular world tour called Crashed Ice, where crowds gather to watch racers jostle their way down an ice chute set up in the middle of a city. It may technically be a race, but as the name suggests, a lot of these fans would probably prefer witnessing an epic crash rather than a photo-finish.

Ice Climbing©istockphoto/AlexSavaRegular rock climbing isn’t dangerous enough for you? Why don’t we make the vertical surface freezing-cold, slippery, and easily breakable? That must’ve been the thought process behind the inventor of ice climbing, where athletes scale steep frozen waterfalls or ice-covered rock faces. An axe and crampon are often utilized, and a safety rope, because this sports offers few second chances. Without them, your only option for staying put on a giant wall of ice would be sticking your tongue to it.

Outhouse Races

Held during the Fur Rendezvous Festival in Alaska, outhouse races are pretty much how they sound. Participants strap skis to a homemade bathroom and push one team member, seated on their, ahem, throne, down a snowy track. Race organizers urge fun and creativity over competition, in case you were thinking of being the guy who took outhouse racing way too seriously. First place finishers get prizes, although strangely, there is nothing offered for making number two.

Check out if any of these weird winter sports are in your area this season to witness first-hand, or better yet, jump in and try them yourself. Admittedly, the participants of these sports come off a little strange, but it sure beats staying inside all winter and succumbing to cabin fever. Getting outdoors and trying something crazy may just be what keeps you sane in the end.