Snow kayaking, which is essentially a race down a snow slope in a kayak, has a long and famous history. The first reported official race was held in the Austrian town of Lienz and is thought to have been established by whitewater kayakers in the Alps as a winter alternative when the rivers were frozen under snow. Five years later, the first Snow Kayaking World Championships were held in the same resort, with Austrian kayaker Peter Draxl becoming the first world champion in the sport.
Snow kayaking contests have been hosted on indoor snow for the past decade, with prior World championships held at Snow world Landgraaf in the Netherlands and most recently at the Snow Arena in Druskininkai, Lithuania in the Baltic area.
The Snow Arena is unique among the world’s 70 or so indoor snow facilities. In addition to possessing one of the largest inside snow slopes, it also allows you to continue skiing outside in the winter.
This year’s Snow Kayak race, scheduled for February 3rd, will be held on a specialised 640-meter (2100-foot) long slalom track, built specifically for this event and culminating in a finish in an ice-water pool — the more traditional site for a kayak.
The competition is part of a multi-sport festival that has become one of the largest winter sporting events in the Baltic republics. The team Olympic winter event draws large numbers of exotic sports fans who want to observe and participate in strange winter sports activities, including inexperienced amateurs and top-level pros.
There are also downhill skiing and snowboard slalom competitions, family hockey and international Bavarian curling championships, and the snow kayaking event.
A popular event is a multi-sport challenge incorporating mountain biking, jogging, orienteering, ropes courses, paddling, skating, logic puzzles, and physical challenges. Participants can choose between the “fun” version of the competition, which covers around 20 kilometres in 2 to 4 hours, or the “pro” version, which covers nearly 40 kilometres in 4-5 hours.
After the competition, competitors can relax and rejuvenate in one of Druskininkai’s spas and Aqua Park, the region’s largest, which offers a wide range of saunas and treatments for relaxation and rejuvenation. Druskininkai is surrounded by large pine tree forests and has long been known for its pure air, mineral water, and medicinal mud – all of which are essential components for recovery after any sporting event.