The 2018 Winter Olympics just wrapped up in South Korea and has once again reminded the world of the truly special atmosphere that can only be found at a snowy, multisport ceremony with geopolitical ramifications (for some reason). Nowhere else could you listen to a discussion of North Korean economic sanctions while watching Shaun White shred gnar. It’s a magical time.
But it could be much more magical. Now, admittedly the Winter Olympics are full of great events such as dudes barreling down an icy slope at terrifying speeds (bobsledding), acrobats sliding around ice on knives in sync with pop music (figure skating), dudes pushing a rock with a broom (curling), every American’s favorite sport (ice hockey), and the one Shaun White does (snowboarding).
But there’s one event that is always lacking in spectacle, missing the essence of finesse and beauty.
That’s right, I’m talking about skiing. As a sport, it’s fine. But as a Winter Olympics sport? It’s preposterous. You can’t show your worst material when the whole world is watching. I’ve experienced more entertainment value watching a kid named Blake get a concussion from sledding down a snow mound in the middle school parking lot on a piece of cardboard.
The problem is evident. Multiple world leaders shouldn’t be subject to viewing such a lifeless sport. Thankfully, the solution is also evident: ski ballet.
Imagine graceful dancing on snow with vibrant, pillowing outfits popping against white powder as athletes execute handstands on carbon fiber ski poles. The picture is pure art.
Ski ballet, also known as ‘acroski’, was started in the 60s and gained popularity throughout the 70s and 80s. Eventually, it garnered the audience of the International Olympic Committee for consideration as an official Olympic sport. After demonstration runs at the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics, the IOC rejected the sport, and thus began the twilight of ski ballet.
After failing to become an official Olympic event, interest in the sport fell, and the International Ski Federation ended formal competition of ski ballet after 2000.
Ski ballet’s demise is one of the most forgotten tragedies in sports history. Throw on any YouTube clip of a competition and you’ll see why. It is unexpected and unfamiliar to any sports fan, which is precisely the reason for its allure.
During the 2014 Winter Olympics, a video posted on YouTube featuring former ballet skier George Fuehrmeier performing a routine at a 1985 competition received 600,000 views. In the routine, Fuehrmeier glides down a slope while executing leaping spins and acrobatic handstands with athletic elegance as typical 80s guitar riffs sound in the background. His tight elastic ski outfit clashes harshly with his gold-bedazzled sleeves. It’s as if someone decided to parody skiing with a half-baked joke. I highly recommend watching it.
The Winter Olympics is the weird cousin to the normal Olympics (as said earlier: one of the sports is just dudes in a really fast sled). That weirdness should be embraced. Bring back ski ballet, and let us ski right on into the future of the sport.