You may have heard of rugby tournaments that take place in the snow and have either been horrified or excited by the prospect.
“Snow Rugby” as it is called certainly has peaked our interest so we reached out to our friends at the Energy Travel Italian office to help us better understand Snow Rugby, a relatively new and very distinct variant of rugby.
Caterina Fiorini, staff member and player at Alp Rugby Tarvisio, talks to us about this very particular version of rugby and about the plans for the future at her Snow Rugby association.
Tell us about yourself and Alp Rugby Tarvisio
I live near Tarvisio in Italy. It is an alpine resort and from a young age I always took part in cross country and athletics. An old school friend introduced me to rugby, though very late on – in fact, I was 35 years old when I started to play for Alp Rugby Tarvisio, a rugby club made up of only female teams.
Over the years I have become involved in the organization of the club’s Snow Rugby Festivals and I deal with the promotion of the tournament and the recruitment of teams to take part.
Can you tell us about the origins of Snow Rugby in Italy and rest of the world?
Snow Rugby was created 13 years ago and was the brainchild of the President of Alp Rugby Tarvisio, Alberto Stendardo, who had seen Beach Rugby and thought to himself, why not make the same competition in winter on snow?
Since Alberto is from Tarvisio and for many months of the year our rugby team trains in the snow anyway, he thought it was worth trying to create a format here in Tarvisio on the snow with the same rules as Beach Rugby: 5 against 5: 31-metres long pitch and 25-metres wide: 2 halves of 5 minutes.
From the off, we loved it simply due to the power of the games which are played with a spectacular level of intensity without the pauses for lineouts or scrums.
[blockquopte]The first edition of a tournament was held in 2013 with 10 men’s teams and the following year the women’s tournament was added, the last edition in 2020 saw the participation of 32 teams.[/blockquopte]
In the rest of the world, snow rugby is particularly popular in Russia and the United States, both of which have a variety of tournaments.
As Snow Rugby is played in the mountains in snow, what clothing is required?
On the upper body we wear a rugby shirt that can then be covered with winter clothing. On the lower part of the body, we usually wear cross-country trousers though some “daredevils” even play in shorts.
It is advisable to wear gloves. For boots, we wear rugby ones, though some players cover them with plastic bags, hoping to keep their feet less wet as snow gets in everywhere!
How are snow rugby pitches prepared? What is it like to play in snow?
The Tarvisio pitch is built at the base to the Prampero ski slope which is the location of the finish line to the ski world cup race that it hosts.
Tarvisio has bobcat snow machines that transport the soft snow, flatten it out and make it into a Rugby Arena.
The first teams to play find a regular, flat, white pitch, but after the first game, the surface becomes uneven, just like it does on the beach for Beach Rugby. As games are played and the snow is stepped on and moved about, the pitch becomes softer and softer and although it is cold, there’s no problem when you are tackled or fall over.
Do you have any Snow Rugby stories from recent years?
Well, it was certainly special to have a team from Tunisia play in the competition. The players had never seen snow before so it was really strange for them to play in snowy conditions on a white pitch!
I also remember the coldest game in the history of the tournament which we played at 5 pm, at sunset, with a temperature of minus 17 degrees Celsius. Yet the adrenaline and the party atmosphere of the crowd made it magical and we will never forget that match.
What happens after the rugby? Is there a party organized after the matches?
The Saturday night party takes place at the Snow Village and is very beautiful and special, with music and lots of people.
Being an international event, you have the opportunity to socialize and create many contacts. The party usually has a theme to it and so the players show up in all sorts of fancy-dress outfits. They often dress up for the matches too. I remember the year where the theme was ‘super heroes’, and on the pitch there were players with capes and costumes.
What are the plans for next winter?
I believe that next year will be our most successful tournament to date.
In 2022 we had 42 teams from 8 different countries registered to play, but that edition was canceled due to Covid.
Another plan for the future is to have a junior competition that allows children to play as well. I think it would perfect for them to have a fun game in which they develop their love for rugby, playing in soft snow, with very simple rules and low-speed impacts.
Our real hope is that Snow Rugby can become an officially recognized rugby discipline that can have a calendar of competitions, just like rugby Sevens, with simple, direct and spectacular matches.
Can you tell us about Tarvisio and all that it offers to foreign visitors?
Tarvisio is a place that offers a variety of winter and summer activities. Alpine skiing takes place on beautiful tree-lined slopes – including the Prampero piste, renowned amongst the best skiers in the world – and cross-country skiing is possible in Tarvisio’s enchanting mountain landscape.
Dogsledding is very typical activity in the region and there are often competitions taking place where you can see the top experts of this discipline in action.
There’s so much to do that I’m certain that our guests will be able to have a lot of fun, both during our tournament and in their free time in the days either side.
Snow Rugby Tarvisio takes place every January – for more information on the tournament taking place in 2023, visit the website, https://www.snowrugby.it/en/.
If you are interested in working with a tour operator to plan your trip to this or any other tournament or want to speak to one to see what your options are, we recommend you check out our friends at Energy Travel, a ski and sport group travel specialist, and ask to speak with Mike Varley. Check out their company website here: www.energy-travel.com.
We are pleased to offer you an exclusive 10% discount on all of their services if you use code “FRN22”.