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Sunshine Village Slush Cup - ©Sunshine Village

Pond skimming is all about big splashes for crowd appeal.

Copyright: Sunshine Village

Costumed skiers and riders attempt to ski across a frigid pond. Winners make it across the water to slide upright back onto snow. But crowds cheer the biggest mishaps. Colossal splashes evoke the wildest appreciation from onlookers.

At ski resorts across the country, the rites of spring have begun. March launched the pond skimming season. It runs through April and May, often scheduled as part of closing weekend parties.

No ski area knows the slush cup rite of spring more than Sunshine Village in Banff. The resort lays claim to the oldest pond skimming in North America and the World Championships. This May, Sunshine Village stages the 88th slush cup competition to coincide with Victoria Day, a Canadian holiday. It attracts thousands of skiers and nonskiers out for the laughs at the biggest splats.

Sunshine Village lays claim to the oldest pond skimming in North America. - ©Sunshine Village

Sunshine Village lays claim to the oldest pond skimming in North America.

Copyright: Sunshine Village

Pond skimming started with skiing across natural pools created during spring melting and runoff. In 1928, Banff skiers began the spring tradition even before the first rope tow hauled skiers uphill at Sunshine. Beer drinking naturally accompanied the festivities. By the 1980s, the event became officially sanctioned by Sunshine Village.

Instead of natural pools, today’s pond skimming uses machine-made waterways dug 70-120 feet long in the snow. Some ponds feature a smooth entry while others strategically place kickers for bigger splashes. Plastic sheeting lines the pond to contain the water, and inflatables—beach balls to alligators—float on top. Some resorts up the ante by forcing skiers to sail across a double pond separated by a strand of snow. This spring, British Columbia’s Red Resort featured a double pond.

Early pond skimming focused more on the competition of getting across the water. It was all about technique and perhaps a spring water-repellent wax.

Now, costumes have become an integral part of the judging and awards. Sometimes the better costumes inhibit technique, but create huge splashes for crowd appeal. Check out how the costumes aid successes or crashes in Utah at Park City’s pond skimming competition this March.

Pond skimming still clings to its grass roots origins. No national or international organization sets the standards for courses, and no teams train for it. It’s hard for individuals even to practice, although standing under a freezing cold shower could prepare for the inevitable wallow in an icy pool. Several ski resorts vie for various titles: Mt. Bachelor boasts the North American Championships while Sunshine Village and Vail both claim the World Championships.

This rite of spring is just getting started. There’s still time to design a costume and enter your local competition. You can even plan a spring ski tour to take in multiple pond skimming events. Here’s a selection of resorts across the country with pond skimming competitions scheduled this spring: 

April 2

• Ski Santa Fe, NM

• Sugarbush, VT

• Bear Valley, CA

• Waterville, NH

• Crested Butte, CO

• Pomerelle, ID

• Smuggler’s Notch, VT

• Powderhorn, CO

• Hogadon, WY

• Northstar, CA 

April 3

• Whiteface, NY

• Taos Ski Valley, NM

• Telluride, CO 

April 4

• Tamarack, ID 

April 9

• Whitefish, MT

• Jay Peak, VT

• Stratton, VT

• Sunday River, ME

• Mt. Shasta, CA

• Snowbasin, UT

• Alyeska, AK

• Loon Mountain, NH 

• Panorama, BC

April 10

• Vail, CO

• Steamboat, CO 

April 16

• Big Sky, MT

• Killington, VT

• Grand Targhee, WY

• Squaw Valley, CA

April 17

• Mammoth, CA 

April 30

• Mt. Hood Meadows, OR 

May 23

• Sunshine Village, AB 

May 29

• Mt. Bachelor, OR

Just a hint for those entering pond skimming competitions: selfies not advised.

Taking the ultimate selfie while pond skimming at Sunshine Village. - ©Sunshine Village

Taking the ultimate selfie while pond skimming at Sunshine Village.

Copyright: Sunshine Village


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Park City Pond Skimming 2016

Crowd roots for favorites during Park City's pond skimming 2016.

Park City
Park City Pond Skimming 2016 - ©Park City
Red Resort Slush Cup 2016 - ©David Calhoun





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