Meet the 7 wackiest winter sports

Up for some Yukigassen? How about Skijoring? Check out these lesser-known but totally epic sports.
By Pierre Steyn

For most, winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are enough to get the blood pumping. But for those who have a curiosity to explore the offbeat, the wild and the outright crazy, we've found just the sports for you to get your winter adrenaline fix.

Check out these ingenious snow and ice sports that don't require a lift pass – but may require a serious case of 'cabin fever' in order to try.


A skier being pulled by a horse.
Leadville's annual skijoring games © THE DENVER POST

Location: Norway, USA, Canada and Russia
: 6
Max speed
: Up to 80kph, depending on your steed
Amateur friendliness:

Originally a horse-powered method of transport in Alaska and Scandinavia, Skijoring has more recently become a sporting way of taking your dog (or horse) for a walk. Essentially, it involves being pulled by your preferred steed at more than your preferred speed along cross-country terrain on a pair of skis. The only other extras you’ll require is a positive attitude and quick-release harness in case your snow-faring Seabiscuit wants to ‘giddy-up.’


Participant battling against each other during the Yukigassen event.
I see what you did there © Yukigassen

Location: Japan, Finland, Norway, Alaska and Canada
Difficulty: 3
Max speed: N/A
Amateur friendliness: Very doable

Crazy name, simple concept. Basically, Yukigassen is one huge snowball fight. Invented by some folks in Japan, the sport is played on a measured court between two teams with seven players each. The winner is determined through the same principles as capture the flag – with players eliminated once they've been hit with a heat-seeking snowball. Even though players are required to wear special helmets with face shields, Yukigassen is still a pretty entertaining winter pastime.

Wok Racing

Polish athletes snowsailing at the world championships 2009.
Wok and roll, baby! © Getty Images

Location: Austria, Germany
Difficulty: 8
Max speed: 105kph
Amateur friendliness: Risky

Remarkably, Wok Racing is a sport that is exactly what it sounds like. It’s you, in a wok, racing down a stretch of ice. Developed by German TV host and entertainer Stefan Raab, Wok Racing sees crazed speed merchants make timed runs down an Olympic bobsled track on slightly modified Chinese woks. Riders often reach speeds of more than 100kph – so, if something goes wrong, it goes very wrong. Don't get cooked!

Snow kayaking

A Competitor sleding down the snow on his kayak.
You still use the paddle to steer © Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Location: Austria, USA, Poland
Difficulty: 7
Max speed: 60kph
Amateur friendliness: Moderate

Equipped with little more than a paddle, a kayak and a healthy helping of guts, Red Bull snow kayakers regularly ‘paddle’ down some of the steepest slopes in the world as if they were frozen rapids. Sounds interesting? Certainly. But sitting in a waxed-up kayak and plunging down any icy slope can lead to some seriously quick cruising of more than 60kph. Good luck with that.


Polish athletes snowsailing at the world championships 2009.
Wind required. Water, not so much © AFP/Getty Images

Location: Anywhere with wind and snow
Difficulty: 7
Max speed: Unknown
Amateur friendliness: Have medical insurance

Snowsurfing is a close cousin of windsurfing. But instead of tearing it up across the waves, snowsurfing allows you to board on frozen lakes, snow-laden clearings and, yes, mountains. This high-speed ride even allows you to go uphill and execute many impressive freestyle tricks like the ‘Power Jibe’, ‘Duck Jibe’ and ’Heli Tack’.

Ice cross downhill

Good thing they're wearing helmets
Yes, you're going to catch some air © Samo Vidic/Red Bull Content Pool

Location: Canada, USA, Finland and Northern Ireland
Difficulty: 8
Max speed: 70kph
Amateur friendliness: Stay at home

We're going to go ahead and take responsibility for this one. Red Bull Crashed Ice, which is also ice cross downhill, is what happens when you combine some of the toughest skaters in the world with tons of steel, a huge cooling system and thousands of square metres of frozen water. Riders hurtle down a steep ice canal dotted with chicanes, jumps and rollers in groups of four, jostling for position as they reach speeds of up to 70kph. Pushing, sliding and shoving is not only allowed, but encouraged. Last one to the bottom buys drinks.

Cresta Run

Cresta run in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Now that's what we calling diving headfirst © Popperfoto/Getty Images

Location: Switzerland
Max speed:
Amateur friendliness:
Doable, depending on level of inebriation

Invented by a group of intoxicated Brits during the winters of the early 1870s, the Cresta Run is an old-school sport where participants charge head-first down a natural ice skeleton racing track on a toboggan, using only spikes on their boots to brake and steer.

Since the very beginning, the 1.2km run has taken place in the winter sports town of St. Moritz, Switzerland – one of the few spots in the world dedicated entirely to skeleton. The sports’ spectator appeal is both in its heritage, and the very real prospect of riders losing control and flying out of the track. In case you're in any doubts, the pre-ride safety brief introduces you to a montage of broken bone x-rays.

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