Canadian Winter Sports: Child's Play

Everyone here who thinks winter sports are "child's play" - raise your hand! We all know the years of dedication it takes to master a sport, let alone become an Olympic competitor, but where do we start? Where does this drive to excel originate? Where will we find our athletes of tomorrow?

The answer is...on the playgrounds of today!

The action clips of some of the competitors heading for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, especially the cheering kids along the route of the Olympic torch, brought to mind some of the winter games we used to play as kids. Pond hockey, challenging each other to skate across the frozen sloughs at break-neck speeds, Akalvik-style ski-jumping and mogul runs by dare-devil kids standing upright on a toboggan in the place of skis - these were just a few of the competitions we devised to test our mastery of our frozen playground.

Canada's National Sport?

Considered by many to be the national sport of Canada: Winter Car Clearing - rickschettino.com
Considered by many to be the national sport of Canada: Winter Car Clearing - rickschettino.com
A beautiful Snow Angel - blogspot.com
A beautiful Snow Angel - blogspot.com
Tobogganing in Britain - news.bbc.co.uk
Tobogganing in Britain - news.bbc.co.uk
The fine art of snowman building - talismancoins.com
The fine art of snowman building - talismancoins.com
Seems everyone loves a good snowball fight! - twistedsifter.com
Seems everyone loves a good snowball fight! - twistedsifter.com

Coming from the North country, we get a lot of practice shoveling driveways, digging out cars, and clearing our sidewalks. We learn at a young age that the winter sports we love as children will be good training for the "Canadian National Winter Pastime" - snow shoveling.

In addition to the regular games we played with the kids down south, we adopted some games from our Northern friends. Though we were forbidden to even attempt the Blanket Toss - it can be rather dangerous without a lot of adult-sized catchers - every kid I knew played Stick Knife, and some variation of a game I remember as Yogi.

Whenever we grew too rambunctious indoors, we were chased outside to make snow angels, or corral our mates in a brisk game of Fox & Geese, to which we added our own version of Snow Snake - seeing who could to toss a stick the farthest distance along a snow path.

The people of the Arctic I grew up with didn't race their dog teams. Dogs teams were valuable working tools, not playthings. I doubt it would ever have occurred to any of them to indulge in such a foolish waste of energy and resources, to say nothing of the potential harm to their dogs. They all knew who had the best teams, so why fuss over something that was already abundantly clear to anyone who knew anything about dog teams - Q.E.D. to their way of thinking.

They also evinced no interest in trying to outdo each other in the skills of the hunter or fisherman - marksmanship with harpoon or rifle. That was not a matter for competition but for co-operation, to ensure everyone had a full cooking pot. Besides, all the bragging rights would be the source of the next drum dance, where every one would be celebrated and teased in equal proportions.

They did, however, devise some fiendishly tricky contests of personal skill and strength, and practice them with an incredible sense of joy, and a true competitor's disregard for life and limb.

Blanket Toss - udel.edu
Blanket Toss - udel.edu
Top Honors  in the blanket toss went this year to Reggie Joule, a 20-year-old Kotzebue Eskimo - aliciapatterson.org
Top Honors in the blanket toss went this year to Reggie Joule, a 20-year-old Kotzebue Eskimo - aliciapatterson.org

Blanket Toss

Trampoline acrobats have nothing on these hardy folk. Competitive vaulters can tell you how much they rely on the elastic effect of the trampoline or springboard to add thrust and height to their leaps.

The blanket toss competitors have only the slack of the cloth, which is not very stretchy, and the power of the blanket holders to throw them aloft. The trick is to stay in an upright position and take advantage of the next toss. The most skilled are able to time the up-thrust of their spring with the toss, and stay upright by milling their legs like a cyclist.

A couple of very real hazards are landing badly or missing the blanket - which could damage gamer and tossers, failure of the cloth - which could result in broken limbs, or one or more tossers losing their grip on the blanket's edge - which could also result in damage to gamer and tossers. Ouch!

Yogi or One-Foot High Kick

To begin the game we played in the school-yard at recess, we first chanted a rhyme - something about "Yogi over the ocean; Yogi over the sea..." Then the player, hopping on one foot, leaped into the air to trap a thick elastic string stretched taut like a skipping rope and held aloft by two classmates.

Twisting in mid-air to snag the elastic string with your "hopping-foot", you then landed on the same foot with the elastic trapped under it. We started with the elastic at ankle level, then at shin level, and raised it in roughly 6" increments with each successful jump and capture. If you missed, it became the next player's turn. Please don't ask me how we managed to do it...I certainly couldn't, now.

This One-Footed High Kick is similar but a lot more demanding. The contestant must hop on one foot, launch into the air from that foot, kick the target cleanly into the proper area, and return to the ground on the same foot. You will notice there are no landing mats - just like the playground of my youth.

We used to wait for the perfect conditions to build a snow fort. On the first reasonably clear day after a good wind, the loose snow would have been tightly packed into wonderfully high drifts. The tallest drifts with the thickest crusts were the targets of choice. Once you chopped through the crust, if the snow was dry enough, the loose snow crystals underneath would be light and easy to excavate. Snow caves made the best forts to defend in a snowball fight, but we were always careful to make them fairly shallow, with large door-holes for a quick escape if the roof started to weaken.

Nowadays, I confine my outdoor winter sports to long walks in the fresh snow, tobogganing, building snowforts with the neighbors' kids, and the occasional all-out, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners snowball fight!

Not every child who enjoys winter sports will grow up with a burning desire to represent their country, but I guarantee if your children are encouraged, and continue into adulthood, they will have a lot more fun than your average couch-potato - and so will you, if you get out there and play with them!

© 2010 RedElf

More by this Author


24 comments

amulets profile image

amulets 6 years ago from Singapore

Look at those snows ... wow! I have yet to see snow and dearly love to have this experience Thanks for sharing those lovely pictures.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, amulets. It gets kinda cold, but it sure is pretty! Most welcome!


ralwus 6 years ago

I wish I could do those things again. Thanks for a great read.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for that enjoyable hub and to learn about your world. It was so interesting.


englightenedsoul profile image

englightenedsoul 6 years ago

Really Nice Hub!!Also I liked the layout of your hubs.Looks really nice.


fishtiger58 profile image

fishtiger58 6 years ago from Momence, Illinois

Great hub, I really love the photo of the nuns throwing snowballs. I only do one winter sport, ice fishing but I guess that's not an Olympic sport, YET. Thanks for a great read.


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 6 years ago from Aurora

Thanks for these insights to Canada! The games are going to be so exciting!

FYI, your first video is blocked by Canadian Broadcasting Corp who "has decided to block it in your country". I guess they don't like us Yanks!


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 6 years ago from Canada's 'California'

I remember a few 'take-no-prisoners' snowball fights - I was usually the non-prisoner LOL! My aim has improved somewhat, but I think I would still be the one being pelted!


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago

These snow activities sound like a lot of fun. Having grown up near (very near in fact) the equator, I can only imagine...Great job on the use of descriptive, vivid language--certainly helps me to picture them. Thanks for sharing.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Wow--I'm trying to imagine my So. Calif. driveway with that much snow and my car beneath it. You must be in great shape from all that shoveling. Has anyone ever used a blanket toss to get up to a girl's balcony? =:) Thanks for the nice hub RE.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Charlie! I'm so happy to see you back! Don't too feel bad, I wouldn't last for long either ;)

Most welcome, Hh - so glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks, enlightenedsoul. It's nice to know my efforts paid off!

Oh, ft - good one! Can you imagine the play-by-play announcers in the fishing shacks? Too funny! There's gotta be a hub in that one!

Laura, I can't imagine why that would happen - I've never seen that before with clips from youtube! Maybe it's a copyright thing? Sorry guys, it's such a great segment! I'll have to try and find another one.

I find it's more the sheer amount of snowballs you can unload in a single volley that can turn the tide ;) Care for a go sometime? ;)

You are so welcome, anginwu. I'm glad I was able to make the experience so vivid for you!

Unfortunately, Winsome, we have a snow-blower now, and my son just loves to use it. Oh, well. A blanket toss would be a great trick for chivareeing newly-weds! Thanks, friend!


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I have fond memories of my time spent outside in the snow as a child. I absolutely love your pictures. Great hub.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Hey, Gals! Thanks for stopping by! I loved it more then than now, I must admit ;) Glad you enjoyed it.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Terrific hub, great pics, especially the guy with the car!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Paradise7. That guy could have been me a few winters ago - we had a dump of close to 40 inches over a couple of days. It just kept snowing! :D


Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

Wow, it is just hard to imagine that much snow. I've often thought I would like to go to Canada to experience a big snow, however, I can't imagine attempting to dig a car out of that much snow. I think I would just hibernate like the bears. :) Thanks for sharing the experiences of Canada's winter games, RedElf.


stephensaldana profile image

stephensaldana 6 years ago from Chicago

Great hub!!!!

The mind-blowing journey which you narrated is sparklingly fabulous. The pictures are breathtaking. The hub is meticulously formatted and presentation is of par excellence. Thanks a lot for providing so much fun and enjoyment.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

We don't get that much every year, but occasionally we do get a really spectacular dump! We had to hand-shovel the driveway at the acreage several mornings to get to work, and a few times to get back down it after work. It was a very long driveway - about one city block. Then we bought a four-by-four!

Most welcome - you are much too kind, but I'm glad you enjoyed the hub!


lovelypaper profile image

lovelypaper 6 years ago from Virginia

Those are some fun pictures. I like the snow angel. Great hub.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, lovely paper! So nice of you to stop by!


Duchess OBlunt 6 years ago

What a wonderful hub RedElf! Canada is a wonderful country and every part of it is rich in their own culture. Loved reading about the North West Territories. You did a great job - the entire hub from start to finish.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Duchess. I really appreciate your comments, too. I took my time in the north for granted when I was a kid, but I know now how truly blessed I was to have such amazing experiences.


dusy7969 profile image

dusy7969 5 years ago from San Diego, California

I realy enjoy the above pictures that are very wonderful.I saw the snows it was so lovely.I like this hub.Thanks a lot for this hub.Thanks Redelf and continue your work.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much for stopping by to read and comment, dusy7969!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working