The U.S. Yukigassen Championship will take place today starting at 11 a.m. on the Delaney Park Strip at 10th Avenue and G Street.
Yukigassen -- Japanese for "snow battle" -- is a recently devised sport involving officiated snowball fights between organized teams. Each team has seven players and 90 pre-formed snowballs. They wear helmets and face masks and duck behind small barricades for protection. Players must leave the field when they are struck by a snowball from the opposing team or step out of bounds. A team wins a round when it captures a flag guarded by the opposing team or eliminates all the members of the opposing team.
To advance in the tournament, a team must win two of three rounds. Each round lasts 3 minutes. In Saturday's men's elimination competition, no round went past 2 minutes and 55 seconds. Some rounds ended within seconds as teams took advantage of their opponent's inattention to surge across the center line in a snowball-flinging banzai charge.
The tournament held in conjunction with the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous over the past eight days is the first such event sanctioned in the U.S. by the recently formed Yukigassen USA group. But competition also takes place in other countries, including Norway, Sweden, Holland, Australia, Canada and Japan, where it was invented.
Yukigassen USA organizer Carrie Ferguson of Penticton, British Columbia, who helped launch the sport in Canada, said she hopes to see the big league snowball brawl become an Olympic sport.
Thirty-two teams signed up to compete in this inaugural tournament. Winners of today's men's and coed competitions will represent the U.S. in the World Yukigassen Championships taking place in Japan next February.
Reach Mike Dunham at email@example.com or 257-4332.
By MIKE DUNHAM