The Snow Snake is well-known in many Indigenous cultures across Canada. It was sometimes played between entire communities, as among the Iroquois. The game helped to develop technical skills that could be important for the hunt, and it was often only played by men and the older boys. At the competitions today, the game is played by all. The distance competition described here is popular among Dene cultures such as the Dogrib, Chipewyan, and Slavey.
This is an outdoor snow game. A sizeable, flat and snow-covered area is required.
How to play
In the distance competition, you attempt to hurl the snow snake as far as possible either across a well-packed and smooth snow field, or along a channel built especially for the game. The channel can be built by banking up two 20 centimetre-high parallel berms about 2 metres apart. If thrown properly, the snake will travel a long way, so the channel may have to be 60 m long or more! The best competitors reach distances of up to 100m. A throwing line is marked in the snow. All participants stay behind and to the side of the throwing line, giving the competitor plenty of room for a run-up. If a channel is used, spectators should stay well clear, in case the snake crosses the berm and leaves the channel. This happens quite frequently. The competitor grasps the snake with an underhand grip at about the centre of gravity. After a run-up of 3 or 5 steps, he releases the snake with an underhand throw, without stepping over the throwing line. It is also possible to execute a stationary throw without a run-up. Greatest distance wins the round.
- It’s winter! Dress warmly — you are going outside!
- Lots of snow for berms, if you want to construct a channel.
- The snow snake is a straight stick (dowel) similar to a javelin, anywhere between 60 and 120 cm in length, and about 1.5 to 2 cm in diameter. It is pointed at one end, blunt at the other.
- Spray paint or similar to mark the throwing line in the snow.
- For a formal competition, a long tape measure to measure throwing distances.
Physical activity in Canada includes everyone, regardless of any ability or circumstance. Some sports and activities may, however, require a few adaptations to make them as accessible as possible. Below you’ll find recommendations and suggestions on how to accommodate individuals that may have limitations or different needs. With a positive attitude and a little ingenuity, any activity can be made enjoyable for all.