Anchorage to Debut Official Team Snowball Fighting

Official team snowball fighting is coming to the U.S. for the first time, according to officials in Anchorage. "Yukigassen" is already popular in Japan and northern countries.

The intense snowball competition will join a roster of wacky events during Anchorage's 76th Fur Rendezvous winter festival in February.

Yukigassen originated in Japan -- the word "yuki" means snow and "kassen" means battle. The sport is played by two teams of seven contestants on a rectangular court. Each team packs its own snowballs and wins when it captures the flag of the opposing team or hits all the members of the opposing team with snowballs.

Competitors have to wear helmets and Yukigassen officials oversee the "snow battle."

Anchorage's Fur Rendezvous, or "Fur Rondy" as it is known locally, also features such events as snowshoe softball, frostbite footraces and "running of the reindeer." So competitive snowballing fighting fits in well, city officials say.

Mayor Dan Sullivan marked the Yukigassen announcement with a snowball skirmish in downtown Anchorage.

"Rondy is a great chance for Anchorage to show the world that winter really can be wonderful," said Julie Saupe, president & CEO of the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The 2011 Fur Rendezvous will be held from February 25 to March 6, leading into the city's largest annual event: The ceremonial start of the famous Iditarod dogsled race.

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