Photo courtesy of Vail Resorts.
We answer all the questions about this awesome craze that you never realised you had until now:
Is that where you throw a pebble across a pond and it bounces? What does that have to do with skiing?
‘Nice try but no’ and ‘more than you’d think’ are the answers to both your questions. Pond skimming is the sport of/art of/craze for racing down the mountain and across a pool of water on either your skis or your snowboard. It’s essentially a cross between water skiing and downhill skiing but without the aid of a motorboat and a rope to help you stay afloat.
Since when was this a thing?
Surprisingly, as far back as 1928 according to some sources. The Canadian resort of Banff claims to be the originator of the sport. Beer-addled winter sports enthusiasts, perhaps lamenting the end of the ski season, would ‘take advantage’ of the natural pools formed in spring from the melting snow. Weirdly, it turned out to be quite popular.
It sounds dangerous…
Not really, the biggest danger is getting soaking wet as you fail to cross ‘the pond’, which today is essentially a man-made swimming pool, usually between 20m and 35m long, dug into the mountain side. Seeing contestants sink into the pool is frequent and also frequently hilarious. It’s a great spectator sport and many of the competitions are also open for everyone in resort to compete in. You know… if you fancy having a go?
No thanks, you’d have to be mad to try…
Looking at the contestants you’d be forgiven for thinking that! It’s traditional for the participants of pond skimming to wear fancy dress while competing and it’s an important part of the sport. The more outlandish the costume the better. Judges at competitions will award points as much for the style of your clothing as for the style of your skiing and boarding.
Does anyone ever make it across ‘the pond’?
Yes! But the technical merit for doing so is often less appreciated by the crowds than the huge splashes created by contestants plummeting into the water.
OK, it sounds like fun. Where can I go to watch pond skimming?
All over. The pond skimming season begins in the spring when the weather becomes warmer and falling into a pool of water up a snowy mountain becomes more forgiving than it would be in the icy mid-winter. The oldest competition is the Annual Slush Cup, held every May in Sunshine Village, Banff. Iconic competitions are also held earlier in the season including the Caribou Cup in Mont Tremblant which takes place on 1 April every year. The World Pond Skimming Championships in Vail, only an hour’s drive from Breckenridge, also takes place in April and forms part of the Spring Back to Vail festival.
Are there any closer to home?
Expect splashes galore at the Les Arcs waterslide which is open from March onwards and free to those with a local lift pass. The shallow pool is lined with deckchairs for the perfect view. Many end of season ski festivities across Europe include pond skimming. The Subli’cimes celebration in La Plagne has a short pond. And only 30 minutes’ drive from St Anton, the Austrian village of See hosts the annual Watersurf Contest where €2,000 is up for grabs to the most impressive pond-skier.
Did you say €2,000?
Perhaps it’s time I gave this crazy sport a try?
Perhaps it is…