Volleyball in the snow: everything that you need to know about this new sport.

There is indoor volleyball, beach volleyball, sitting volleyball and now snow volleyball is becoming popular. This means that players are competing in the snow and have to try to push the ball over the net without slipping and sliding too much. This can result in spectacular matches and I expect a lot of this sport in the years to come. 

What is snow volleyball and how is it played?

There is a lot of overlap between beach volleyball and beach volleyball. The temperatures might be different but the size of the court (60′ by 30′) and net are used. The height of the net is also 7.97ft for men and 7.35ft for women. They use fabric to outline the courts. This makes it easy for beach volleyball players to adopt this new sport. They just need to get used to slipping and sliding over the snow. 

Let’s take a look at how it works in practice:

The main difference between snow volleyball and beach volleyball is that you have an additional player on the court. Therefore it is played with 3 players instead of 2 per team. There is also a player on the bench, allowing teams to substitute during the match. This can happen twice per set. These players can keep themselves warm by using a blanket or a hot drink.

There are only 15 points per set and the goal is to win 2 sets. This makes sure that the matches don’t last too long as the frigid temperatures can make it uncomfortable to play for a longer period of time. The matches in general last about 20 minutes. 

Another exception from beach volleyball is that a block doesn’t count as a touch. This gives the additional player a bigger chance to join the rally. Otherwise, two players would dominate the match and the third player wouldn’t have a chance to participate.

The structure of the snow can be every day and players have to adjust their strategies based on how slippery the snow is that day. Sometimes ice is formed under the snow and this can make it very slippery and hard to get enough traction. In these instances, players might prefer to stand still instead of running around the whole time. Players are not allowed to manipulate the snow before the match. To keep it fair, players switch sides during the match. 

The net is cleaned of any snow and ice before the match starts so that it is possible to look through the net and see the other team. 

What to wear for snow volleyball?

Obviously, it is going to be cold to play snow volleyball and players have to wear equipment that keeps them warm. This includes gloves, sunglasses, caps, and sweaters. A scarf is generally not worn as this can interfere with arm movements. The gloves keep the hands of the players warm but also provide more traction. 

Players have of the same team have to wear the same colored shirt. Often a vest is worn so that people can wear a sweater under this. Bright colors are used for this so that it is easy to notice it in the snow. 

Some players wear a short. This makes it easier to wear knee pads but this is optional and depends on how soft the snow is that day. Long socks are then often used to cover the rest of the leg. Others prefer to wear long pants with embedded knee pads. These pants often use foam as some gels are not able to deal with the cold. 

Thermal underwear can be worn under these pants so that players keep warm. A hoodie can work as well as the cap offers some additional protection against the elements. The clothes shouldn’t reduce the agility of the players and therefore you can’t wear too many layers of clothes. Baggy clothes are also avoided as these can interfere with the way in which people move. 

A cap can be worn as well to make sure that the sun doesn’t get in your eyes during the game. Snow can reflect the sun and this can make it hard to see what is going on. Special sunglasses can help with this as well.

Players wear soccer shoes as these have cleats (or studs) that provide more traction. Without these, it would be impossible to run in the snow. They can get stuck in the snow and make it harder to be agile though so it is a tradeoff between traction and agility. Overall, these shoes work quite well to play snow volleyball.  

The player on the bench can bring blankets and other gear to keep warm while they are waiting to join the match. 

The best snow volleyball ball: is it a Mikasa?

Mikasa is the best-known brand when it comes to balls for volleyball. They make the official ball for a lot of tournaments and for this reason the same brand is used for snow volleyball. The ball is similar to the one that is used during beach volleyball but offers more grip given that snow can be slippery. 

The SV335-V8 is the official ball in a lot of tournaments. Special materials are used so that the outer layer of the ball doesn’t deform when it gets cold. A lot of balls are not designed for colder temperatures and they might get creases in them. This ball is brightly colored and this makes it easy to see in the snow. It is made out of 8 panels so that the ball lasts longer. A special coating is applied so that the ball offers more grip. 

Mikasa has spent a lot of time perfecting this volleyball and it took years of research to get the final details right. Not a lot of other brands offer snow volleyball so far because the sport is so new. You can’t use an indoor ball as the ball has to be waterproof to be able to deal with melting snow. A lot of balls also don’t offer enough grip and this would make it very hard to play with once they are covered in snow. 

It can be hard to find this ball as it is not available in every store given that snow volleyball is so new. It is great that there is already an official ball so that it is clear which one should be used. This avoids a lot of discussions and issues during tournaments. The ball has the same size and shape as a beach volleyball (which is slightly larger than an indoor volleyball): Size: 26-26.7” (66 – 68 cm) and a weight of 9.1-9.8 oz (260 – 280g). The same pressure or psi is used for the ball as well as is being used for beach volleyballs.  

EVA foams are used in this ball and this is great as some people were proposing plastic balls for snow volleyball. These are lighter and easier to push over the net but they don’t feel as good as foam. Therefore it is great that Mikasa opted to use the materials that have proven their usefulness instead of experimenting with new materials. 

Snow volleyball history

The origins probably date back to Russia as they have a very cold climate over there and it has a big volleyball culture. It wouldn’t take too much to put these two together. More recently, it became popular in the snow-covered mountains of Austria. In 2008 people started playing it and it took off. FIVB, the International Volleyball Federation has paid attention and already organized some tournaments. It could become part of the Winter Olympics in the future if more players decide to pick up the sport. The challenge is that it can be quite hard to practice in certain parts of the world but the same is true about beach volleyball. 

We have to note that snow volleyball is a very recent sport and therefore the rules can still change. It is a hopeful sign that the FIVB is already organizing events and tournaments. This increases the chances that the sport will remain popular in the years to come as people will practice if they think that they can make a career out of it. Beach volleyball players can consider playing snow volleyball during calmer periods of the year to get some additional income. Snow volleyball was a demonstration sport at the 2018 Olympic Winter Game and the FIVB and USAVolleyball want to make it a permanent addition to the tournament. A team with players from the USA participated in this showcase.

Part of the appeal of the sport is that you get very beautiful views of the mountains and skiers. Big brands are therefore sponsoring the sport as it is something new and exciting. This gives a budget to the organizers or tournaments and makes the sport more popular. Hopefully, we will be able to see big international tournaments pop up in the coming years so that the sport can be played year-round and attract more talent. At the moment it is mainly played in Austria, Italy, Georgia, and Turkey. It is a game that can be played with families and can introduce volleyball to a lot of new players. 

To conclude, we can state that snow volleyball is a recent variation on the volleyball game that we all know and love. There are a lot of overlaps with beach volleyball (such as the court size and net) but it also has some elements that make it unique. For example, it is played on snow and with three players instead of two players. The matches are also shorter. Given that it is a new sport, we can expect the rules to change in the years to come.