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5 Weird winter sports you may or may not want to try


1. Skijoring

Think of it as skiing with a twist. Skijoring (say: ski-yoring) involves being pulled by a horse, dog, or a pair of dogs while on skis. It got its start several hundred years ago in Scandinavia and Alaska. At that time, skijoring was a mode of transportation. Today, it’s all about racing. The sport takes place in a number of snowy spots around the world, and most races are between 5 km (3 mi) and 20 km (12 mi) long. To add some extra fun to the competition, some of these races have obstacles and ramps that test racers’ skills.

A man skijoring - a sport where he's pulled behind a horse while on skis.

Photo by Kaila Angello licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

2. North Pole Marathon

You can pretty well guess where the North Pole Marathon takes place. But it may be hard to imagine what draws participants to this 42-km run. As you’d imagine, it can get quite cold at the North Pole. Plus, racers have to deal with uneven, icy ground. Sometimes the ground is so snowy that runners actually wear snowshoes as they run. To help make the race a little easier, there are large tents along the route where racers can warm up. And there are also doctors on hand to make sure frostbite doesn’t get the best of anyone. Maybe the coolest part of the race is that it takes place on top of the frozen Arctic Ocean, making it the only marathon that’s run on water.

Two people on the ice of the Arctic

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center licensed CC BY 2.0

3. Yukigassen

The name may sound strange, but you’ve probably played a version of this sport. Yukigassen (say: you-key-goss-en) is basically a huge snowball fight. The sport, which got its start in Japan, is made up of two teams of seven throwing ready-made snowballs at each other. The battle takes place on a snow-covered court with several shelters that players can hide behind. The object is to capture the opponent’s flag without getting smacked by a snowball. Of course, a serious snowball fight requires serious equipment. Players wear special helmets with face shields to make sure it’s all fun and games.

People participating in yukigassen - a Japanese version of a snowball fight.

Photo by Biblioteques de Montreal licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

4. Shovel Racing

It turns out snow shovels aren’t just for shovelling snow. In this wacky winter sport, participants sit on a metal shovel and race down a snowy mountainside. The sport began in the 1970s when ski-lift operators used shovels to quickly make it to the bottom of the slopes. Now there are snow shovel world championships held every February in New Mexico. While barrelling down a hill on a shovel may sound like fun, it takes a stomach full of guts to try it out. Riders can go as fast as 110 kph (68 mph).

A little kid racing down a hill while sitting on a shovel.

Photo by Lynn Eubank licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

5. Wok Racing

The wok has found a spot in the sports world. Yup, we’re talking about the flat-bottomed pan that’s used in Asian cooking. In wok racing, racers sit in a wok and zip down an icy bobsled run. The fastest to the bottom is the winner. The sport started as a joke when a German TV host included it on his show in 2003, but it soon developed into a real sport. Racers wear protective gear similar to hockey players, and that’s a good thing, since they can go as fast as 120 kph (75 mph). Wok racing can be done as an individual or as a team. For a team race, four woks are attached together using a wooden frame.

A man racing down a hill while sitting in a wok.

Photo by Stefan Grassberger licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0