Ski ballet

The 1988 Winter Olympics included three freestyle skiing events as a demonstration sport: moguls, aerials, and ski ballet. Two of these have become official Olympic sports. One has not.

Clemens Stockner, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hey, it’s time for another chapter in the pursuit for unusual hybrid sports (chess boxing, parahawking, trampoline volleyball…): ski ballet.

This sport was one of three demonstration events in freestyle skiing at the 1988 Winter Olympics. The other two have since become medal events. You could have won a medal in the moguls (downhill skiing over lots of bumps) in every Winter Olympics since 1992; aerials have been a fantastically impressive medal event since 1994. But where these two sports have succeeded, ski ballet sank underneath the snow.

What is ski ballet exactly? Well, it’s probably easiest to imagine it like figure skating. The competitors do a range of acrobatic turns, spins, jumps, and flips… all while wearing skis. And these aren’t flips from a ramp, they’re flips from a standing position, using ski poles as leverage. It’s pretty impressive. Here’s a winning performance from the 1988 Olympics:

Like figure skating, there is music involved as well. It seems like sports that involve some kind of “performance” element get more than their share of ridicule. Synchronised swimming, for example, ends up the butt of too many jokes despite the extreme athletic control it requires. I imagine we’ll hear more of the same when breakdancing makes its Olympic debut in two years.

[Thanks to Gareth E.]

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