Skiing Plus Rodeo = Wild Sport of 'Skijoring'

Saddle up!
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 9, 2024 11:30 AM CST
Skiing Plus Rodeo = Wild Sport of 'Skijoring'
A skijoring team competes in Leadville, Colorado, on March 2. Skijoring draws its name from the Norwegian word "skikjoring," meaning "ski driving."   (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Nick Burri clicks into his ski bindings, squats to stretch his knees, and scans the snowy racecourse. Moments later, he's zipping past a series of gates at high speed and hurtling off jumps. But it's not gravity pulling him toward the finish line: It's the brute force of a quarter horse named Sirius. Welcome to "skijoring," a quirky, extreme winter sport that celebrates the unlikely melding of rodeo and ski culture in the US Mountain States.

  • Ski-what? It's a heart-pumping, white-knuckle competition in which horses—and sometimes dogs, snowmobiles, and even cars—tow skiers by rope at speeds that can top 40mph, over jumps as high as 8 feet and around obstacles as they try to lance suspended hoops with a baton, typically a ski pole that's cut in half, per the AP.
  • The big race: Every winter, thousands of people converge on the old mining town of Leadville, Colorado, high in the Rocky Mountains (elevation 10,158 feet), lining the downtown's main street and packing the saloons to witness one of the most popular skijoring races in the country. The spectacle, billed as 'The Granddaddy of 'Em All,' has been a tradition in Leadville since 1949.
  • Origins: Skijoring draws its name from the Norwegian word "skikjoring," meaning "ski driving." It started as a practical mode of transportation in Scandinavia and became popular in the Alps around 1900.
  • Risks: Today's sport is inherently dangerous, and injuries aren't uncommon among riders and skiers alike. Burri, 26, of Meeker did well in the competition despite skiing with a separated shoulder from a hard spill during a race two weeks earlier. "Wrong turn, taking a jump wrong, go down wrong. You could end your season. Then hospital bills rack up, but it's just for the thrill of it," says Burri.
  • Growing sport: Five years ago, the sport fielded about 350 teams of riders, skiers, and horses in the US, according to Loren Zhimanskova, chair of Skijor US. Now, about 1,000 teams are competing, and the number of races has increased from about 15 a year to more than 30. One event in Shakopee, Minnesota, consistently draws a crowd of 10,000 spectators. Zhimanskova hopes the sport will one day be included in the Winter Olympics. "I think it's one of the most romantic and visually pleasing sports that you could see. It's just magnificent," she says. Much more here.
(More strange stuff stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.