Many people spend winter huddled indoors. For winter sports enthusiasts, however, the arrival of snow and chilly temperatures means the start of a season of outdoor fun. Those who see winter as a time to embrace their love of sport may appreciate learning more about some of the sports that are most popular during the colder months of the year.
Hockey is one of the most popular winter sports. In 1994, Parliament passed the Canada's National Sport Act, which declared hockey the official national winter sport of Canada. The origins of ice hockey are somewhat uncertain, though some historians claim the first set of rules to govern the sport were written by students at Montreal's McGill University in the 1870s.
Downhill (Alpine) skiing
Historians state that skiing evolved as a method to cross the landscape in the winter when marshlands froze over. Cave drawings suggest that man used skis during the last Ice Age in the Palaeolithic period. Yet the birth of modern downhill skiing is often traced to the 1850s when Norwegian legend Sondre Norheim popularized skis with curved sides and made skiing a sport instead of just a mode of transport. Skiing ultimately became quite popular in Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Today there are various types of downhill skiing, including mountain skiing, extreme cat skiing and heli skiing.
Curling may now be seen as a largely Canadian sport, but it is widely believed to be one of the world's oldest team sports, tracing its origins to Great Britain. The World Curling Federation states paintings by the 16th Century Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel portrayed an activity similar to curling being played on Scotland's frozen ponds. The earliest known curling stones came from the Scottish regions of Stirling and Perth, dating all the way back to 1511.
Speed skating and figure skating are derivatives of early ice skating, which is believed to have started in Finland more than 3,000 years ago. Skates were sharpened, flattened bone strapped to the bottom of a shoe and glided on top of the ice. The Dutch added edges to steel blades around the 13th or 14th centuries. Eventually, skating was brought to England from the Netherlands.
Winter sports draw millions of participants each year, giving people a reason to leave the house even when temperatures dip below freezing.