Originally a means of transportation over snow, “skijoring”—getting pulled on skis by a horse—first appeared in Scandinavia about 700 years ago. North Americans, of course, like to ratchet up the fun quotient, and this practical form of locomotion was turned into a sport in the 1950s. Specialized competitions are held in at least five different states and several countries, and believe it or not, there’s even a North American Skijoring Association (www.nasja.com) that sets basic guidelines to help event organizers put on challenging and safe competitions.
Held every year since 1914, Winter Carnival in Steamboat Springs, Colo., has long been an excuse for local ranchers to leave their ranches (and skiers to leave the hill) for a week of fun and games. Early participants tested their skills at ski jumping, cross country skiing, and shooting. Today skijoring is one of the main events. People of all ages get pulled through slalom courses and over jumps down Main Street by galloping horses. It is great fun to watch and easy to see why skijoring is a beloved local tradition. There are similar skijoring events in frozen places like Sandpoint, Idaho, Whitefish, Montana, and Leadville, Colorado that honor ranching, skiing, and winter in general.
By pulling on the rope like a waterskier, athletes can reach speeds of 40–50 miles per hour, and the horsemanship required to steady a galloping horse and tied on rope through the snow is no small feat either.