Rondy to introduce new event: team snowball fighting

Rosemary Shinohara
Mayor Dan Sullivan, right, and teammates from left Nikki O'Connor, Carly Jones and Heather Eads of Anchorage Fur Rendezvous take a momentary beating demonstrating the new Yukigassen event set to debut in 2011 outside the new Rondy headquarters Wednesday afternoon December 8, 2010 at 400 D Street downtown. Yukigassen, Japanese for snow battle, will feature two teams of seven competing in a structured setting as they attempt to win by capturing their opponents' flag or hitting all their opponents with snowballs. Participants will wear helmets with face shields. Sullivan and his team squared off with Assemblyman Ernie Hall and his squad for a brief sidewalk competition.
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News

The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous says it's going to import a new event from Japan for the city's 2011 winter festival -- a sanctioned, organized snowball fight called Yukigassen.

Rondy board president Gary Hufford said Wednesday it will be the first sanctioned Yukigassen tourney in the United States.

"We're always looking for new events," he said, and someone brought this idea to the board.

Here's how it works:

Two teams of seven players, wearing helmets and face guards, meet on a rectangular field that has defensive shelters, "chateaus" made of snow, and flags for each side.

No shields allowed. No cleats or metal spikes.

A team can win by capturing the opponents' flag or hitting all the opponents with snowballs.

Each team will get 270 snowballs, which machines will make.

The teams play for three three-minute periods, with referees officiating.

There were no referees out Wednesday, though.

After the Rondy announcement at their headquarters in the old Club 25 building on Fourth Avenue, Mayor Dan Sullivan, Assemblyman and former Rondy board chairman Ernie Hall and others demonstrated the art of throwing snowballs.

The structured snowball sport began in Sobetsu, Japan, according to the Rondy news release. The word yukigassen means snow battle in Japanese.

The game has taken hold in Canada, and a Canadian group will come to Anchorage in January to teach the rules, train referees and run practice tournaments, said Hufford.

Wikipedia says there are annual tournaments in Japan, Finland, Norway, Australia and Sweden.

Anybody interested in forming a team in Anchorage can call the Rondy office, 274-1177, said Hufford.

The Rondy tournament will be played on the Delaney Park Strip, he said. Rondy begins Feb. 25, lasts for 10 days, and features many activities, from sled dog racing to ice sculptures to a melodrama. And now a snowball fight.

The festival has been regaining popularity the past three years after surviving a financial crisis and low turnout before that.

Now, they're looking to keep it fresh, said Hufford. "One thing we're constantly trying to do is be robust."

Find Rosemary Shinohara online at or call her at 257-4340.