Couple has contest down cold

Like sticking your tongue on the icy metal bars at school, snowball fights for most Canadian kids were a right of passage.

Carrie Ferguson of Okanagan Falls lets fly with a snowball at an unspecified target. She and husband Gord currently hold the North American rights to the fast-growing sport of Yukigassen.

Carrie Ferguson of Okanagan Falls lets fly with a snowball at an unspecified target. She and husband Gord currently hold the North American rights to the fast-growing sport of Yukigassen.

Like sticking your tongue on the icy metal bars at school, snowball fights for most Canadian kids were a right of passage.

They usually began with a single volley resulting in a direct hit on an unsuspecting victim.

From there sides were quickly chosen and the battle lines drawn in the snow.

However, almost always the icy battles ended predictably — an injury, tears and a scattering of the combatants as authorities arrived.

Now, thanks to the efforts of an Okanagan Falls couple, adults throughout North America (at least where applicable snow wise) can relive those glory days, only this time without fear of corporal punishment.

A few years ago Carrie and Gord Ferguson read a story about the Japanese sport of Yukigassen, which turned out to be little more than an officiated snowball fight. The Fergusons have since obtained the rights to authorize the sanctioned events in cities throughout Canada and the United States.

“It’s crazy — in a good way — to think that we started with a glass of wine reading this little magazine and now we’ve got this international thing,” said Ferguson, who grew up in Winnipeg and endured many face washings and snowball fights.

“The big thing is I have two kids in school, but whenever it snows the principal gets on the PA saying the snow stays on the ground, no throwing snowballs and nobody is allowed to do it anymore. So this has given people a chance to go out on the field and have fun and not get hurt.

“I’m actually surprised no one in Canada thought about it — and we’re covered in snow -— and for it to have to come over from Japan…”

Ferguson was in Anchorage, Alaska for last weekend’s U.S. Championships and the battle for the Canadian title took place in Edmonton at the same time.

Winners of the top divisions in both events will have the opportunity to challenge for the World honours next year in Japan.

The event itself is played on a 10-by-40-metre field with seven people aside and each person getting a total of 90 snowballs for the three, three-minute period game.

The ammunition — each one exactly seven centimetres in diameter — is made from compacted snow in a specially-designed, Japanese metal snowball machine.

Like in paintball or dodge ball, those hit by snowballs are out, and the object is to capture the opponents flag or at the end of each frame to have the last player standing.

The match victory goes to the squad that wins two of the three periods.

And the prize at the end of it all?

“Glory,” said Ferguson, who added it is not unusual for tempers to get heated during the competitions. “That and bragging rights and a few bruises.”

Since the Fergusons became involved in Yukigassen, the public and media interest has — what else — snowballed.

It’s even gotten so popular she recalled her four and six-year-old sons Charlie and Tucker sitting on the beach in Hawaii crying because it was snowing back home in Okanagan Falls.

“I mean really, in Hawaii?” said Carrie.

With more and more cities expressing interest in hosting their own events in the coming winters, the executive director is working to make sure things don’t get too big, too fast.

“After all, while it is a lot of work, the most important thing is that it stays fun — for everyone,” she said. “And who knows, we may even have it here one day.”