Winter in Alaska: Yukigassen brings team snowball fighting competition to Fur Rondy (video)

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.

A vicious, vicious Yukigassen match at the 2011 Fur Rondy Festival

It’s late February in Alaska, and that can only mean one thing: Fur Rendezvous. 2011 marks the 76th year that this extravaganza has taken over the streets of downtown Anchorage, and for two solid weekends, locals and tourists alike flock to the city to gawk and participate. This year, the Fur Rondy board decided to spice things up a bit by adding one more event to the roster: Yukigassen. Translated from Japanese, it means “snow battle,” and that’s exactly what it looks like when played out. At this year’s festival, the first sanctioned Yukigassen tournament was held in America, giving the teams a chance to go on and compete at a higher level should they take the gold here in Anchorage.

It’s a blast to watch, and I can only imagine how much fun it’d be to take part in. It’s a little like paintball, but you’ll need to substitute snowballs for paint-filled pellets to really grok it. Teams have a stockpile of snowballs behind their flag, which can only be transferred forward to other teammates by rolling them on the ground (i.e. no tossing allowed). The goal is simple: be on the team that captures the opponent’s flag, or be on the team that has the last man / woman standing. It’s like dodgeball, but for angst-ridden adults with a bone to pick and plenty of steam to blow off. Here’s hoping this sport spreads from AK down into the lower 48, but for now, have a look at two teams battling it out in the video above and the gallery below.


My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.