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Get ready to discover your new favorite winter sport.
JASPER, ALTA. — I’m quite certain that only a handful of people in the history of Earth have been able to answer the question, “What are you up to next weekend?” with “Refereeing a snowball fight.” Luckily, I was able to be one of them.
Every year, the town of Jasper hosts the Canadian Rockies Snow Battle, a fun tournament that sees teams compete for glory and bragging rights.
The game - a unique combination of dodgeball and capture the flag, using snowballs - is officially known as Yukigassen (translating to “snow battle”) and originated in Japan nearly 25 years ago. After finding success in Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Australia, the sport came to Canada in 2011 with events held in Edmonton, Saskatoon and during Jasper in January 2012. Now, Jasper will hold its second Yukigassen event, and I’ve been tasked with refereeing this bizarre, but incredibly fun, experience.
“I always tell people that if you have seen any footage of the game, and think it might be fun to play, actually playing it is so much more fun than you even think,” said Carrie Ferguson, Executive Director of Yukigassen Canada.
After undergoing my referee training for the inaugural January 2012 event I can say with 100% certainty that Ferguson is on the money. Having gone through some simulated games, I couldn’t believe how much fun it was to play in the snow like a little kid again - diving, barricading behind bunkers, doing barrel rolls and being able to smash people with snowballs.
Honestly, when was the last time you balled up some snow and nailed someone with it? You probably got in trouble for it, too.
“The game definitely lets you tap into that primal, childlike feeling we all kind of lose as we get older. It’s just fun. Being able to run around with a bunch of your friends and throw snowballs is a fun, hilarious time. You feel great.”
A combo of dodgeball and capture the flag, Yukigassen is a sport that anyone can play and enjoy.
The game consists of two teams of seven, who compete on a field that’s 40 metres long by 10 metres wide. Each game lasts three rounds (best of three), and each round is three minutes long. To win, teams have to knock opposing players out with snowballs (like dodgeball) or capture the other team’s flag. Chaos ensues.
Jasper has signed on to host the Canadian National tournament for the next five years, with the winning team earning a place at the World Championships in Japan.
Trust me, if you don’t have plans that weekend, do yourself a favor and enter the tournament. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. And I guarantee you will, too.
For more information and to read more about the sport visit the festival page
Here is a video from the January 2012 event:
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