Skijoring (ski driving) is comprised of a single horse, generally guided by a rider, pulling a person on skis who simply hangs onto a tow rope in a manner similar to water skiing. Skiing behind a horse originated as a method of winter transportation, Skijoring used as transportation but today skijoring is a competitive sport. Skijoring horses have to be trained to remain calm in racing conditions and accept the presence of ropes and skiers being towed behind them.
Skijoring's roots are in Norway and Sweden. It was included on the program of the Nordic Games in 1901, 1905, and 1909. Skijoring was also a demonstration sport held in St. Moritz, Switzerland, 1928. The competition in St. Moritz was held on a frozen lake. Unlike modern equestrian skijoring in North America, there were no riders on the horses, no jumps on the course, and athletes competed simultaneously. Although the sport was included as a demonstration sport in 1928, it would never again appear as either a demonstration or medal sport.
The North American Ski Joring Association holds competitions in which a rider guides the horse while the skier navigates a series of jumps and obstacles. More informal competitions are held on flat ground over short courses, often as simple sprint races on a straightaway, St. Moritz 1928 Olympics Skijoring Demosometimes with turns on the course. Competitors often use short skis and modified water skiing towing equipment, though often this is as simple as a single tow rope looped around the horn or attached to the back of a western saddle. Some variants in equipment attach two towing lines to either the back of a saddle or the breastplate on the horse. Timing is typically electronic, with top competitions decided by hundredths of seconds.
The World Skijoring Championships have been held in Whitefish, Montana since 2009, as a part of the annual Whitefish Winter Carnival. The 2011 World Skijoring Championships had an actual purse of $19,580 and 91 teams. Skiers are required to land upright.
The city of Leadville, Colorado, has organized an equestrian competition since 1949, which has a much higher emphasis on speed. The Leadville version is normally spelled as two words: "Ski Joring". A horse and rider pull a skier at a fast pace through a course that has gates, jumps and rings. The skier is timed through the course, and penalties are assessed by missing gates or jumps, and by missing or dropping any of the rings (two seconds each). The competitors race for cash prizes, and teams are made up by a random draw before the start.
Silverton residents, Pete Maisel and Rob Conaty, brought this great annual event to Silverton in 2010. The event drew riders, skiers and audience from Durango, Cortez, Pagosa Springs, Montrose, Ridgway and Grand Junction, as well as from the Red Mountain Pass communities of Ouray, Ridgway, Montrose and beyond.
During the first year the audience was around 300 people and has been showing substantial growth every year with 2016 being the biggest most successful Skijoring to date. From all appearances, there was well over 2,500 spectators attending the 2016 races. The 2017 event promises to show even more growth, as it's popularity increases.
Silverton' Skijoring would like to thank the great volunteers that help with crowd control, race judging, course maintenance, and so much more.