Part of the excitement of the approaching Olympic season is the spectacle of watching competition that you may not have even realized exists. Several Olympic sports, such as skeleton (face-first ice slide), biathlon (skiing & shooting), and curling (ice bocce), may appear a bit outlandish, but these are often the sports that unfamiliar viewers find the most enjoyment in. If these peculiar sports are included in the winter Olympics, then why shouldn’t the Olympic committee consider adding a few more oddities?
Speed-Riding – Extreme sports enthusiasts will love this one. Speed-riding is one of the newer winter sports, so it could potentially become an Olympic sport someday. Speed-riding started in France, but it has been increasingly common in Switzerland and Austria. Italy and Germany are also starting to catch on. Speed-riding takes place on snow covered slopes and is not to be mistaken with speed-flying, which involves foot launching off of snow free slopes without ground contact until landing. There is frequent ski to slope contact involved, and the sport links skiing and paragliding in an exhilarating and dangerous fashion.
Shovel Racing – Beginning in New Mexico’s ski resorts in the 1970s, shovel racing is mainly considered an American sport. It was featured in the 1997 Winter X Games, but it has since been discontinued due to high risk of injury. A rider sits in a snow shovel facing the handle with feet forward. Many shovels are modified, and riders often wax the shovels to further increase speed. Elite shovel racers can reach speeds of up to 70 mph.
Downhill Ice Skating (Crashed Ice) – Only Red Bull would host the Crashed Ice extreme downhill ice skating event. The skating track usually includes steep turns, jumps, and high vertical drops, and racers whip down the track on hockey skates. Each heat includes four skaters, as the narrow track would not be able to handle many more.
Ice Climbing – The sport of ice climbing often takes place on a frozen waterfall. The equipment used changes based on the ice texture and slope. It ranges from mountaineering boots and an ice axe to crampons and rope systems. It is certainly a strenuous sport, but now any person can challenge themselves with the right training. If you are willing to try it but are new to ice climbing, check out the best ice climbing trips in the area.
Skijoring – In this sport, the racer skis behind horses (in some cases dogs or motor vehicles). A waistband keeps the skier connected to a harnessed animal. Skijoring was demonstrated at the 1928 St. Moritz Winter Olympics using dogs, and equestrian skijoring began in the 1940s. It is now a popular North American sport, particularly in Quebec. Different styles include sprint racing, distance racing, backwoods, and Nordic-style skijoring.
Dog Sledding aka Mushing – Who doesn’t love the movies Eight Below (2006) and Snow Dogs (2002)? As a very popular modern sport, many support the idea of dog sledding as an Olympic sport. To put sled dogs to the test of hauling large loads for long periods of time is a controversial topic, though, and the main issue is that a team of dogs is quite difficult to pack up and travel the world with. The last time that mushing was featured in the Winter Olympics was in 1932 in Oslo, Norway. The world famous Iditarod Race is well known around the world as the supreme mushing competition, with the motto, “The Last Great Race.”
Ringette – Mainly considered a women’s sport, ringette is often explained as a cross between hockey and basketball. This 5-on-5 sport entails using a straight wooden stick to shoot a blue rubber ring into the opponent’s net to score goals. It is faster paced than hockey, and it involves a lot of agility and concentration. The puck is easier to control than a hockey puck once stabbed by the stick, but the act of stabbing it is quite difficult.
Snowball Fight – There’s nothing as exciting as dodgeball in an elementary school gym class, and snowball fighting is the winter equivalent of this sport. The camaraderie involved in this snowball fighting is unlike any other, with teammates going all out to protect one another. This fast-paced sport is full of action. The art of forming a snowball must be mastered, and the agony when struck by one can take down even the strongest of men.
Snow Snake – A native Iroquois game, Snow Snake was originally played after the men of an Iroquois village returned from the annual hunt. Before the game started, each player would carve a “snake,” which was usually a flattened piece of scrap wood curved up a bit at one end. A trough would be formed in the snow, and the members of each team would throw their “snakes” along the trough as quickly as possible. The distance of the tosses of the members of each team would be added up, and the team with the higher score would be the winner.
Winter Pentathlon – Picture this: going cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, pistol shooting, fencing, then horseback riding. The winter pentathlon was featured in the 1948 St. Moriz Olympics where Sweden took the gold, silver, and bronze medals. The somewhat comparable modern pentathlon (fencing, 200 meter freestyle swimming, show jumping, pistol shooting, 3200 meter cross-country run) is still one of the 25 core sports of the summer Olympics, but the winter pentathlon is no longer an Olympic sport. The Winter Olympic biathlon includes cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, but to be successful in the winter pentathlon, an athlete must truly be a jack-of-all-trades.