Featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Rarely is a sport so completely bizarre that it shows up in the world-renowned Olympics before disappearing into the snowy powder from whence it came.
Dancing, costumes, snow, flips, and 80s music; this sport had it all. The sport was a form of freestyle skiing that looks very similar to freestyle figure skating routine. Ballet skiers had 90 seconds to perform a routine of their own creation before a panel of judges. Some played rock music of the time, giving aggressive performances, while others chose classical music for their delicate spins and footwork.
Ski ballet truly was a product of the times. Just as music and culture were becoming more rebellious, freestyle skiing was taking form in protest of rigid European ski techniques. Moguls and Aerial took form first, and are still a part of the Olympics today, but in the pro world, skiers were looking for something more.
Pioneer Bob Howard worked out techniques while other skiers came up with the idea to add music. One trick involved a performer planting their ski poles in the ground and doing a flip over them. All this buzz around the sport by pro athletes combined with a formal league set the stage for Ski Ballet to hit the Olympics.
At the Olympics
Ski Ballet premiered at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Canada. It was just an exhibition sport and, sadly, didn’t win over many Alpine or Nordic ski fans.
By its second appearance in the 1992 Winter Games, snowboarding was already the hot new thing to watch, and Ski Ballet was never renewed.
Many of the ski ballet athletes blame low membership for the sport’s demise. Whereas anybody can get inspired to hit the slopes on a snowboard, ski ballet was a much more difficult sport for regular people to break into.
By the early 2000’s the sport completely vanished.