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A Ski-Town Classic & Rite of Passage: Bucket List Worthy Pond Skimming Events

Water skiing meets snow for the wildest and wackiest end of the season ski challenge held around the world. These destinations epically ring in springtime as riders splash into a frigid pond of water.

A retro skier glides across the pool of water at the pond skimming event at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, New York.
Credit: Holiday Valley

It’s that time of year again when snow bunnies sniff the pollen and suddenly let loose on the slopes in classic spring skiing style. Back in the 1920s, some genius from Canada decided it would be silly to celebrate the changing of seasons with the ultimate spring skiing competition: pond skimming. A century or so later, the special event is now considered a rite of passage for skiers and boarders of all generations worldwide.

The white blanketed slopes begin to narrow as the weather warms and the snowy crevasses transform into small creeks. Why not combine snow skiing and water skiing? And pond skimming was born. The best (and overly confident) skiers on the mountain take on the challenge as the wild crowds cheer.

So, what exactly is Pond Skimming?

Well, it’s a thrilling and hilarious event where skiers and boarders attempt to skim across a pool or pond of frigid ice water. They don their wildest and wackiest costumes, ready to brave the icy cold water.

The goal? Make it to the other side without sinking or polar plunging. Some glide effortlessly as if on wings, while others careen wildly into the abyss and get soaked to the bone.

It’s a rite of passage that every ski enthusiast dreams of achieving. A moment when you transcend from being a mere amateur to a brave member of the pond skimming community.

The costumes are just as outrageous as the stunts. You’ll see everything from superheroes to Vikings to men wearing dinky speedos.

Pond skimming competitor at Perisher Resort in Australia standing on the side of a ski slope dressed in a shark speedo.
Pond skimmer at Perisher Resort in Australia scoping out the competition. Credit: katacarix/Shutterstock

So, prepare to make a splash because pond skimming season is approaching. While plenty of places host their end-of-season contests, some resorts take things to the next level.

We’re talking about the ones that draw in crazy crowds, thunderous applause, and maybe even a few belly-flops. These are the most outlandish pond-skimming destinations, where you’ll find the wackiest costumes, the most outrageous wipeouts, and wildly passionate skimmers.

It is time to add pond skimming to your springtime bucket list. Here are some worthy ones to keep in mind happening in 2023.

Banff Sunshine Slush Cup in Alberta, Canada

May 22, 2023

Banff is where it all began. They are the GOAT of pond skimming (or as they call Slush Cup) in North America as the most extended reigning host of the classic springtime event.

As the story goes, avid skier, Cyril Paris dared his buddy Peter Whyte to ski across a freshwater pond they had stumbled upon at Banff Sunshine Village in the ’40s before it was a resort.

This year will mark 95 years of epic skimming. Grandparents, parents, and now Gen-Z skiers and boarders are taking on the challenge. The almost century-long tradition brings together people of all generations for a big ol’ party.

Sugarbush in Warren, Vermont

April 8, 2023

This epic pond skimming event, coined the Annual Rite of Spring by Sugarbush, is a double whammy of awesomeness! It’s the oldest in the US and claims to have the longest stretch of water to skim, measuring a mind-boggling 120 feet. That’s like skimming over a 12-story building!

The resort is one of the largest in New England, accepting up to 110 participants for their end-of-the-year skim across the pool party.

Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville, New York

March 26, 2023

Snowboarder plunges into the ice water in an attempt to make it across the pool.
Snowboarder plunges into the ice water in an attempt to make it across the pool at Holiday Valley. Credit: Holiday Valley

Since 1957, the local Western New York ski resort has been among the greatest on the east coast. Ranked number 2 in eastern North America by SKI Magazine in 2022, the resort continually shows up in the top 10 as the sole mountain below 1000 vertical feet.

The short but vast mountain has one of the most substantial ties with its community. It is like one BIG family and a second home for local skiers.

The annual pond skimming event culminates in a great season celebrated with friends, family, and goofy guys dressed in retro ski gear.

“It’s the definition of the Valley’s common quote ‘It’s just fun.’ It is the peak of the season end where ski families and friends from a wide range of hometowns come together for the last time, for the hoorah to complete the memories of the 2022-2023 ski season.”

Taylor Hubert, Local skier at Holiday Valley

Defi Foly at La Clusaz in France

April 23, 2023

Disguised by a different name, the annual Defi Foly contest at the French resort of La Clusaz is a spin-off of the classic pond skimming. Since 1986, Defi Foly has been the contest of the season where over 150 participants attempt to ski across a lake.

Lake Confins (Lac des Confins) is roughly 590 feet long, making it almost impossible to reach the other side. Participants attempt to cross the unfrozen lake on anything that doesn’t enable them to float, such as skis, snowboards, bodyboards, ski bicycles, etc.

It is recommended that everyone hold onto their helmets because speeds can reach up to 50 mph as they zoom across the water and often take a tumble.

The current record for the furthest distance is held by professional skier Philippe Troubat who made it 509 feet, just short of the end.

A skier at Perisher Resort in Australia is racing towards the pond of water.
A skier at Perisher Resort in Australia is racing towards the pond of water. Credit: katacarix/Shutterstock

Some competitors take the event seriously, analyzing the slope of the run and the angle at which they enter the water, while others are just there for the laughs.

But one thing is for sure, everyone is there to have a good time. So grab your skis (or your swimsuit!) and join in on the fun. Could you skim across the water?

Written By

Graduated from Flagler College, with a liberal arts degree concentrating in political science, economics, and English to develop a multifaceted perspective on the world. What started as a childhood hobby, writing has become a passion and has formed into a career interest in Journalism.

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