Steamboat Springs to host inaugural snow volleyball tournament
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — If there’s any place in the United States where a new snow sport will be embraced, it’s Steamboat Springs.
Lucia Howard, a native of Slovakia and former collegiate volleyball player living in Steamboat Springs, is starting a new snow volleyball tournament this April.
“I’ve been organizing volleyball for four to five years, and all events are indoors or outside on grass or sand,” Howard said. “When I heard this (snow volleyball) was huge in Europe, I was really excited about bringing it to the U.S. because nobody has done it.”
The International Federation of Volleyball, or FIVB, now recognizes snow volleyball as a discipline and hopes to establish a World Championship by 2020. There is currently a European tour. There was an exhibition snow volleyball match at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and the inaugural FIVB World Tour will begin Thursday, March 28, to Sunday, March 31, in Austria and Italy.
A team of U.S. beach volleyball players became the first to win a snow volleyball gold medal during this season’s European tour stop in Moscow on Dec. 22, 2018.
But growing a sport starts from the roots, or the amateurs, which is what Howard is doing by hosting a snow volleyball tournament in Steamboat on April 6 and 7 at the sand volleyball courts near Howelsen Hill.
Teams can register early at snowvolleyusa.com for $90 until Tuesday, March 26 or for a late registration fee of $110 through April 3.
Snow volleyball is played in teams of three with one substitute. The sport has mostly the same rules as regular volleyball and maintains the same court size as sand volleyball. Sand volleyball is played in the best of three sets to 15 points, not 21. A touch off a block, which is counted as one of the three allowed touches per team in sand volleyball, will not be counted in snow volleyball.
Players wear what Howard thinks is equivalent to cross-country ski wear: thin sleeves and leggings. Instead of playing on bare feet, snow volleyball players wear soccer cleats or trail running shoes that have more traction.
The tournament in Steamboat will be coed, and teams must have at least one girl on the court at a time.
The tournament will have a cash prize of $300 for a competitive division, and medals for winners of the recreational division. If any profits are made from the tournament, they will be donated to the Whiteout Volleyball Club, which provides offseason volleyball training and tournaments to local players in Steamboat.
“Players and coaches are supportive, and girls will be helping at the event,” Howard said. “Hopefully, the girls, seeing this emerging sport, it will make them want to play for many years to come.”
Howard hopes to get 30 to 35 teams to play in the Steamboat tournament. She hopes the tournament expands in years to come to include professional snow volleyball players.
“The FIVB is trying to get it to the Winter Olympics,” Howard said. “If they succeed, it’s going to get huge in the U.S. Having one of the first tournaments here will be great for Steamboat and bring even more visitors here as something unique.”
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