Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kerrzy's Notebook: Snow Battle!

In the City of Champions, dealing with snow is just a part of life.

For well over half the year, it clogs up the side streets, it makes people drive like rookies and you’re required by law to keep it off your sidewalks, which is a total hassle. Sure, it’s great for the traditional recreational purposes that we’ve come up with as a society to make it seem not so bad, but it’s not good for much else, is it?

Oh, but it is! Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you Yukigassen.

“It’s a Japanese word for Snow Battle,” says Dave Hennessey with OOMPH! Events. “Essentially, it’s a competitive snowball fight!”

Yes, you read that correctly. Someone has created a socially acceptable venue wherein grown men and women can throw snowballs at each other, and if they’re good enough, be named the Canadian Snow Battle champion!

Fort Edmonton Park is the venue for Yukigassen Edmonton which runs from March 4-6th and will be our country’s first ever national championship tournament (and just the second event ever held in Canada).

I know, I know, it’s a lot to take in right now. I won’t even mention the fact that they’ve got a machine they use to manufacture dozens of perfect snowballs all at once (until later on). At this point though, you’re probably asking yourself “what genius came up with such a brilliant idea for a sport?” Don’t worry, I asked that question too!

“It started over 20 years ago in a small mountain town in Japan,” explains Hennessey. “They were trying to think of a way to attract more tourists in the winter season. The Japanese ran it internally for probably ten years or so and what happened was, a student group from Finland stumbled upon it. [They] talked to the local guys, they absolutely loved the sport, so they took it home and set it up in Finland.”

“From there, it poured across Europe [and] randomly got to Australia somehow.”

Hennessey says the sport is so popular in Japan that lots of baseball players have switched up their priorities and left that game behind to train year-round in Yukigassen! That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Imagine having the next Daisuke Matsuzaka getting ready to wallop you with a 90 mph fast(snow)ball!

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Alright, now that you’re past the initial shock of learning that you can legally whip snowballs at other people (as long as they signed up as well!), let me tell you how the game actually works: It’s two teams of seven on either side of a 10x40 meter course, which is made entirely of snow. Barricades made of the white stuff are strategically placed throughout the course and there is a flag at each end. Picture a paintball course, but add snow and take away the guns.

To eliminate the other team, you either hit them with snowballs or get down to the other end and capture that flag!

Pretty cool, eh? Now to the snowball maker:

“Basically, it’s a big egg carton – so picture half of a cup on the bottom and then half a cup on top,” says Hennessey as I look back on a misspent youth. “You put two big dumps of warm snow in, it’s got to be very warm and moist snow for it to work, you bring the top of the egg carton down on it and pack it all in. In about a minute, you’ve got 45 perfectly rounded snowballs.”

Before you say it, I’ve got some advice for you: instead of wondering where this fine piece of technology was back when you were a little kid, rejoice in the knowledge that such a thing exists now! Speaking of a misspent youth, Hennessey says don’t worry about practicing – if you’ve lived in a cold climate for most of your life, you’re more than ready.

“We’ve been training for it since we were all four years old – the moment you could first start putting a snowball together is when you first started training for Yukigassen! As long as you can run around and throw a snowball, you’re ready to play!”

To get involved, round up eight friends and head to SnowBattle.ca – men, women, boys and girls are all welcome to sign up and battle for the title of “Canadian World Champion!”

Registration closes on Monday, February 21st.

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