By Jason Reinsberg
As you arrive to the starting gate you can feel your heart beating out of your chest as snowflakes kiss your cheeks. What looks like steam flaring from your half ton team mate is just her breath letting you know she is waiting for your cue. The rope that is attached to the both of you is tossed to your other team mate. You think to yourself “Please let him hold on”. The course master says “Ready when you are” and you and your team are flying through the snow. Do you what to know what I’m talking about? It’s the amazing sport of Skijoring.
Skijoring is a winter sport in which a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog (or dogs) or a motor vehicle. It is derived from the Norwegian word skijøring meaning ski driving, but I’m going to tell you about skijoring with horse.
Skijoring was not always a sport, but a way of travel in the winter. It was also a way for military to travel over snowy land. And since there was no chair lifts yet, people who enjoyed skiing needed a way up the mountain. Mostly skijoring was an activity based in Switzerland and France, where it became very popular around 1912. At one point in history it was even entered into the Winter Olympics in 1928. But the official debut was at the Stockholm Winter Games in 1901, and 1906. Soon the Americans wanted in on the fun. Skijoring crossed the ocean and around 1900’s skijoring was a hit in the USA. In 1915, skijoring appeared as a recreational activity in Lake Placid, New York and was a regular event the Winter Carnival in Hanover, New Hampshire. But we know that West made this activity into a sport. Around 1930, I’m told that a group of men were in a bar and betting who was faster on skis. So they decided to get there cowboy friends and attach a rope to the saddle and run down main street. I don’t know if that part is true or not, but it sounds cool. Thus, American races were born.
Skijoring is a three teammate event. You have a skier, who not only has to hold on, they have to go over jumps, waive around gates, and collect rings. Then you have a rider, who controls the speed and direction of the horse. And a horse, basically the power of the team...Horse Power. You may not think that it’s hard, but it is. You don’t want to go to fast that the skier can’t hold on or make the gates, but not too slow since it is a timed event. All three have to work together in order to have a good run.
In 1976, Denver, Colorado put skijoring as an exhibition sport for the Winter Olympics. Denver ultimately turned down the skijoring event. But, there are some people like Skijor International, Skijor USA, and others, who are working to bring skijoring back to the 2026 Olympics in some capacity. I hope it happens because I plan on being in it. But till then I will skijor in the Flathead Valley with my horse Lucky Luna.