We are all familiar with the classic winter sports of downhill and cross-country skiing, but some people take a different approach while on skis. Skijoring, defined, is where a person is pulled by an animal or motor vehicle while on cross-country style skis. Typically, the best options for this are large dogs and horses.
Today we will talk about the history of skijoring as a sport, different styles and techniques, and how you can take part in this awesome activity in Colorado over this winter season.
The first point in history where someone was pulled on skis by animals was recorded by a Persian historian thousands of years ago. This took place in the mountains of central Asia. It was stated that multiple dogs would pull a person on ski-resembling boards to provide relatively quick transportation. Since then, people in Scandanavian countries have been getting pulled on Nordic skis by reindeer for hundreds of years. This was a way to make quick progress over large snowy areas that would otherwise be extremely time-consuming. This technique first came to the Nordic Games in Stockholm in 1901.
After this, the horse-style skijoring came up at the Chamonix Winter games and then appeared in the 1928 Olympics in Switzerland. The sport came to the United States in the early 1900’s first appearing in New York, then migrating to Rocky Mountain towns such as Jackson Hole, and Steamboat Springs.
As mentioned earlier, you have options in your power source when participating in this sport. Depending on if you choose a dog, dog team, or a horse to pull you, your technique and required gear will change. If being pulled by a dog, you will need to equip your dog with a sled-pulling harness, have a tow rope, and hook the other end to a personal harness for yourself. This will give you the freedom to assist the dog by using poles since this method allows you to be hands-free. If being pulled by a horse, you need to take a different approach. In this method there is either a rider on the horse pulling you, or you must have a very responsive and well-trained horse. You are pulled by a rope with a handle, like what someone would use while water-skiing. Both are very fun, but if you are just getting into the sport, it is a good idea to try a dog-powered method.
Now that you are an expert on the history and methods of skijoring, it’s time to get out there and try it! There are multiple locations around the state of Colorado where there are dog-friendly cross-country skiing trails. One of the best places to participate would be at the Nordic Center in Frisco, CO. This area has very well groomed and maintained trails, unparalleled views, and is happy to have dogs on the trail with you. Another great option for your skijoring destination would be the Devil’s Thumb Ranch, located north of Winter Park, CO.
This area is ranked as one of the best cross-country skiing destinations and provides rentals, directions, and an awesome trail system. Make sure to get your gear, mark your destination, and bring out your inner Norwegian by doing some skijoring in Colorado this winter!