Snow Sport Fun with Man’s Best Friend
With its name derived from the Norwegian term skikjøring, translated ‘ski-driving’, skijoring offers loads of snow sport fun for both human and canine (or equine) participants. Skijoring relies on a close partnership between skier and dog, or dogs, with the cross-country skier using skis and poles to control movement and the dogs providing a burst of speed and power by running and pulling the skier in much the same way as sled-dogs pull a sled. The dogs wear sled-dog harnesses which are joined by a length of rope to the harness worn by the skier. As the skier is holding ski poles in each hand, there are no reins for directing or controlling the dogs and they are taught to respond to verbal directions from the skier.
While breeds that are naturally inclined to pull, such as Alaskan Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Boston Terriers, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Pointers, Setters, Bull Terriers and Bull Mastiffs, are good choices for skijoring, virtually any energetic dog weighing more than 35 pounds can enjoy this sport.
Skijoring has a large following, both as a recreational and competitive sport, and skijor races are held in many snow sport destinations. Covering a distance of 270 miles, the longest skijor race is held in Kalevala in the Republic of Karelia, Russia, with the Road Runner 100 covering a distance of 99 miles in Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory of Canada – but most races are less than fifteen miles long. Skijoring races often taken place in conjunction with sled-dog races in Canada and the United States. In addition to races held by local clubs, there are three international organizations which oversee skijoring competitions. These are the International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA) which sanctions races in Canada and the United States, the European Sled Dog Racing Association (ESDRA) which sanctions races in Europe, and the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) which sanctions World Cup races and biennial World Championships which feature categories for men, women, one-dog and two-dog events.
Horses are also used for skijoring, with a single horse pulling a person on skis. Unlike canine skijoring, in equestrian skijoring the skier does not have poles and does not wear a harness, but holds onto a towrope in much the same manner as waterskiing. In some competitions the horse will be riderless, with the skier directing it, while other competitions require a rider to guide the horse while the skier traverses challenging jumps and obstacles. Skijoring certainly is an entertaining activity for both participants and spectators.