Most Interesting Winter Sports :: The portal of the largest rankings on the Internet!

Sports played on courts or on grass tend to get the vast majority of the media’s attention: football, tennis, golf, and so on. Despite this, there is a thriving winter sports scene with legions of committed fans and incredibly talented competitors.

Of course, every four years or so the world’s attention does get drawn to these winter sports, courtesy of the Winter Olympics. We’ll talk more about those later, but – before we do – we want to make it clear that winter sports actually take place year in, and year out, just like the more heralded sports we mentioned earlier!

With that said, here are the 10 most interesting winter sports in the world. Some you may have heard of, others might be new and fascinating to you, but they all have one thing in common – each is an intriguing sporting discipline in its own right.

The 10 Most Interesting Winter Sports in the World

Winter sport
1 The Biathlon Let’s kick off with one of the winter sports which does make it into the Winter Olympics, but is certainly one of the less publicized events.

The biathlon – as its name suggests – involves two disciplines: skiing and shooting. Just like a triathlon, the multiple disciplines are incorporated into the same race – there’s no division into separate events – meaning you must transition from one to the other as the event is ongoing.

Specifically, the skiing in question is cross-country, rather than downhill, which is far more taxing in terms of stamina. Even as they ski, in this event, the competitor must carry their rifle with them. They will then periodically reach shooting stages, where they must attempt to hit targets which are placed 50m away. Missed shots result in time being added on to your total, and the winner of the contest is the athlete who finishes it in the shortest amount of time.

What’s particularly interesting about this event is that it has clear roots in the history of simply surviving in cold-weather countries. It mimics the times when people (particularly in Scandinavia) really would have to ski cross-country, and hunt at the same time, in order to feed themselves.

Origins: Scandinavia
Incorporated into Winter Olympics: 1960

2 Ice Hockey Whilst it isn’t necessarily the most played, this is arguably the most well-known professional winter sport of all, thanks to the National Hockey League in North America. We think, however, that because it’s so well-known, people have stopped realizing just what an interesting sport ice hockey is.

For starters, it’s played at incredibly close quarters. A typical rink is only 200ft x 85ft (with the radius of the corners being 28ft). That is really not very much space at all, especially when you consider that there are five active players per team (not including the goalkeepers, of course) – ten in total – whizzing around at high speeds. Those players are also – at the higher levels, at least – not particularly small human beings!

It also requires a phenomenal amount of skill. If you’ve ever tried skating as an amateur, you’ll have realized it’s pretty tricky. Now imagine adding on a load of padding, not being able to use your hands to balance (because they’re carrying a big stick), trying to control a small puck, and trying to score into a tiny little goal (only 72in x 48in)!

Overall, ice hockey is a winter sport that requires a frankly ridiculous amount of speed, agility, co-ordination and sheer bravery.

Origins: Canada
Incorporated into Winter Olympics: 1924

3 Snowkiting Both of the winter sports we’ve looked at so far have been fairly well-known, thanks to their status as Winter Olympic events. It’s time for a little change of direction. On that note, welcome to snowkiting!

This is an event in which brave souls strap skis to their feet, then also strap a big kite to their back, and go skiing! It is possible to do the same thing with a snowboard, but the skiing version is more popular.

One of the best things about this winter sport is its flexibility. You really can use a kite of any shape or size, from 3m in length all the way up to 15m. In fact, many people simply use the same kite that they take kiteboarding (the water-based equivalent). Snow kiting can also be done in basically any setting, as long as there’s snow or ice on the ground. True thrill-seekers will, of course, shoot down big mountains with their kites, but you can do it just as well on smaller hills, or even on fairly flat terrain if the wind is strong enough.

This is certainly one for the adrenaline junkies out there. If you’ve tried kiteboarding before (or if you’ve just always wanted to!), then you should definitely take a look at snowkiting too.

Origins: Alps (specifically Germany)
Biggest Event: International Snowkite Open

Event Website:
4 Shovel Racing Let’s stick with the more unusual winter sports for now. And, in that vein, they don’t come much more unusual than shovel racing! Shovel racing is… exactly how it sounds. People literally take a shovel – the kind you use to dig holes in the ground – sit on it, and race downhill across snow.

It’s obviously something that basically anyone can do, as long as they have access to a shovel, some snow and a hill. At the higher, more serious ends of the sport, however, organizers will dig out whole circuits, which twist and turn, and competitors will be timed to see how fast they can complete the track. In fact, shovel racing was – for a time – an official event in the Winter X-Games… before it was removed for safety reasons.

Shovel racing might not be the most complex or skilled of winter sports, but we simply love the ingenuity it displays. People across the chillier parts of this world really will use anything at their disposal – including a standard garden shovel – to have fun in the snow!

Origins: USA
Biggest Event: World Championship Shovel Races, New Mexico

Event Website:
5 Curling Ah, curling. It’s a winter sport which people like to make jokes about… but, come the Winter Olympics every four years, you’ll find that most people actually love watching it!

At its base level, curling is a simple sport. In the regular version there are two teams, each with four players. Each team has eight round stones, which they take it in turns to slide down a length of ice (usually 42m long). One of the four people actually curls (i.e. dispatches the stone), and the others frantically polish the ice in front of the stone to either speed it up, or send it one way or the other.

There are four circles towards the end of the ice, and the aim is to finish with your stone closer to the center of the circles than any of the opposition’s. The hook, of course, is that the teams take it in turns to curl, and can therefore knock their opponent’s stone out from the middle with a well-placed shot.

Again, it sounds incredibly simplistic, and it’s certainly very slow-paced. In practice, however, curling is an utterly absorbing sport, with a heavy layer of strategy that makes in constantly intriguing.

Origins: Scotland
Incorporated into Winter Olympics: 1998

6 Speed Skating Well, in terms of pure speed, we’re truly going from one extreme to the other with our transition from curling to speed skating!

Speed skating is – as you can guess from the name – extremely fast-paced. In fact, when you see real-time replays of the professionals doing it – particularly from lower camera angles – it’s breathtaking, and a little scary, to see the speeds they go at.

Fortunately, speed skating is also a winter sport that’s extremely easy to understand. Competitors race against each other around a circular ice rink, with the winner obviously being the first to finish. The actual lengths for the event vary (the longest at the Winter Olympics is 1,500m), with the increases in distances being achieved by simply repeating more laps of the circuit. There are also team relay speed skating events, plus a short track variant where competitors go even faster, due to the shorter distance involved.

The intrigue with speed skating comes in two ways. Firstly, how are you supposed to get past someone on an extremely narrow track? Secondly, when you do need to overtake, can you do so – at incredibly high speeds – whilst still maintaining your balance and form? Crashes in speed skating are very common for a reason, after all.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s hard enough for amateurs to skate around an ice rink, period. Now imagine flying around one, with several other world class athletes trying to zip past you or hold you off. Our hats truly go off to these amazing competitors.

Origins: Northern Europe
Incorporated into Winter Olympics: 1924

7 Skeleton In truth, all of the sledding sports – including bobsleigh and luge – belong on this list. After all, all three of them involve hurtling down an extremely narrow course, encountering sharp twists and turns at breakneck speeds, with minimal protection.

We have to give skeleton the nod as the most interesting of the three, however, simply because its competitors must be even braver than they are in the other sports. In bobsleigh, entrants at least have the sleigh itself to give them some measure of protection. Both luge and skeleton involve shooting along the course on a small sled, with nothing between the riders and the snow. The difference is that, in luge, they at least ride with their feet first. In skeleton, you lead with your head.

We simply can’t imagine hurtling along, at speeds of over 80 miles per hour, with our head pointing straight forward mere inches off the ground. Accordingly, we find the idea that there are people who don’t find this scary – and not only that, but who want to go as fast as they possibly can – simply fascinating.

Origins: Switzerland
Incorporated into Winter Olympics: 1928

8 Figure Skating Of all the major winter sports out there – or, at least, the ones officially recognized at the Winter Olympics – figure skating may just be the most unique.

The reasons why are myriad. There is none of the spontaneity that arguably makes sport in general so enthralling – the routines are meticulously planned, months in advance, and the only question is how well the skater will execute them. This is also the only major winter sport where the victor is decided by opinions – those of the judging panel – rather than factually (who was the fastest, who scored the most points, and so on).

They are the main reasons why figure skating is so interesting. It is also, quite simply, transfixing to watch. The grace of the skaters is astounding, as is their athleticism, which they somehow make seem effortless. When synchronized perfectly with the music that plays at the same time as the routines, the entire spectacle becomes a thing of beauty.

Origins: Unclear, although the first competitions were held in German in 1891
Incorporated into Winter Olympics: 1924

9 Skijoring We’ve looked at quite a few more regular, Winter Olympic-approved sports in a row, and it’s high time we changed things up again! There’s no better way to do so than by taking a look at easily one of the ten most interesting winter sports: skijoring.

In skijoring, the competitor straps on a pair of skis – all pretty normal so far – but then also attaches themselves to some kind of animal, which will then pull them along… not so normal!

The animal in question can be essentially anything that’s big enough to tow a human, tame enough to be fastened to one, and comfortable in snowy conditions. The most common animals are horses and either a single dog or a pair of dogs. The skier does aid their own momentum, using skis and poles, but the animal out front provides an extra boost.

All manner of competitions and contests have been constructed around skijoring, which range from those on flat, unremarkable ground to others which have some pretty scary-looking jumps! Aside from it simply being an unusual sport, the reason we find skijoring so interesting is because it has extremely historical origins. People in snowy climes have been using this as a transportation technique for millenia, so it’s pretty cool to see it being continued today in such a fun form.

Origins: Hard to say, although earliest reports of people skijoring purely for recreation come from northern Europe in the early 20th century.
Biggest Event: Skijor International Races, Worldwide

Event Website:
10 Ski Jumping With all due respect to skeleton, this just might be the most fear-inducing winter sport of them all, and thus simply has to be included on our list.

Of all the sports we’ve looked at, this would probably be the one we’d want to do the least. Yes, even over skeleton. If you haven’t seen it before, then here’s what ski jumping involves. You strap an extra-long pair of skis to your feet (skis are allowed to be up to 145% of the entrant’s body height, which is pretty long!), push off from the start point, whoosh down a long, steep hill, whizz up a short ramp and… essentially launch yourself into thin air. Whilst they’re in the air, the competitors lean forwards and look like they’re actually flying rather than jumping.

The distances involved are staggering. Peter Prevc, for example – a Slovenian ski jumper – managed to travel 250 meters on one jump in 2015. That’s a quarter of a kilometer, flying through the air at high speeds! Of course, even after traveling all that way, the jumpers still have to execute a landing, and do so smoothly to be awarded a good score by the judges.

We have no idea how anyone has the courage to become a ski jumper, but we certainly salute those who do!

Origins: Norway
Incorporated into Winter Olympics: 1924


Well, that concludes our list. In our opinion, those are absolutely the 10 most interesting winter sports in the world today.

You will undoubtedly have noticed that many of those winter sports make appearances at the Winter Olympics. And, although we were keen in our introduction to make it clear that there is more to winter sports than just the Olympics, we still thought it would be worthwhile taking a quick look at by far the biggest winter sporting event on the planet.

Many people might not know this, but for nearly three decades there was no distinction between the regular Olympics and the Winter Olympics. Instead, from 1896 (the year of the first modern Olympics, held in Athens) until 1924, they were all combined into one big, overarching competition. Figure skating, for example, was a fixture in the Summer Olympics in 1908 and 1920, despite its icy nature.

Come 1924, however, all of this changed. The winter sports were split off from the Summer Olympics – held in Paris that year – and were given their very own “International Winter Sports Week” (it was actually 11 days long, but “week” sounded snappier, we guess). It proved to be a tremendous success, and four years later the first full Winter Olympics was held in Switzerland.

There were actually only eight events at that first proper Winter Olympics: bobsleigh, skeleton, ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined (cross-country skiing and ski jumping, rolled into one) and ski jumping. All of those events are still present today, of course, but over the intervening decades the list of events has grown considerably, with major additions including curling, the biathlon and luge.

The actual events aren’t the only thing that’s changed as the Winter Olympics have developed. The contest has become far more international too. It has been held on three different continents (North America and Asia, in addition to Europe), by twelve different countries. It has also grown considerably in size. The number of participating nations has increased from 25 in 1924, to 92 at Pyeongchang 2018, and the volume of entrants has increased from 464 (including a paltry 26 women), to a whopping 2,922 (with a gender split closer to 50/50).

Since the Winter Olympics are all about competition (in addition to bringing the international community together, of course!), let’s take a look at some of the biggest winners that the games have seen.

Despite only having a population of around 5.3 million people, Norway has actually been the most successful ever country in the Winter Olympics. That’s pretty incredible, especially when you consider that the second and third-ranked countries – the USA and Germany – have populations of 325 million and 82 million respectively. Their success has been remarkably consistent too – they won the 1928 event, and won again 90 years later at the 2018 Winter Olympics!

In terms of individual winners, Norwegians also dominate that table. Norway has produced the three biggest medal winners of all time, led by cross-country skier Marit Bjorgen, who has a ridiculous 15 medals to her name.

Having initially not even being seen as deserving their own Olympics, and even then only being given the status of a side-week in 1924, the success which the Winter Olympics has enjoyed since being fully formed in 1928 has been simply phenomenal. They have become an event which genuinely garners the attention of countries the world over, with citizens of the 92 competing nations being particularly passionate in their support.

Most exciting of all, perhaps, is that these games continue to evolve. The 21st century has seen the addition of events like mixed curling, and the super-cool big air snowboarding. What does the future hold for this wonderful event? We have absolutely no idea, but it’s going to be a lot of fun finding out!