We Love the Olympics, But It's Missing One Sport

February 8, 2018

To say we’re pumped for the Winter Olympics is a definite understatement. We love watching cold-weather sports like bobsledding (Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme!), the terrifying-but-exhilarating art of ski jumping, figure skating (perhaps the most dance-centric event) and even more obscure options like curling.

But that’s not the say the Olympics aren’t lacking in any way.

We’re missing the cherry on top, which at one time did exist in the games: the long-forgotten sport of ski ballet, also know as acroski.

Yes, in 1988 and 1992, ski ballet was a demonstration sport in the Winter Olympics. (Outside of the games, it had more traction, existing as an idiom of freestyle skiing at major competitions from the 1960s until 2000.) The delightfully odd mash-up of balletic movement, figure skating and skiing is better seen than described. Exhibit A:

It is dated, it is cheesy, it is amazing. Little information exists on this now-fossilized discipline, but thankfully NBC recently put together this mini-documentary that takes a deeper look at the sport (and it’s getting us all nostalgic). It’s also a fitting tribute to the bygone era of neon ski fashion.

At times, ski ballet even involved ribbon dancing(!). Here, Suzy Chaffee, a glam professional model and popular athlete in the 1970s swirls and twirls:

Even though it may seem goofy today, ski ballet is far more than a 1980s stereotype. It takes real skill and artistry, and when done well, it can be as graceful as figure skating. Take French athlete Hermann Reitberger, for example. He’s truly incredible. (Don’t miss his pole-assisted front flip 45 seconds into this 1988 Olympic performance.)

Here’s hoping ski ballet will make a return, perhaps even in 2020.