Billowing evergreens silhouetted against the soft glow from layers of freshly acquired snow crystals is a panorama often anticipated by skiers when embarking upon their adventure. However, each year in Bellevue, Idaho, such opulent scenery is traded for the hind view of a four-legged stead. The sport is dubbed “ski-joring” and incorporates two teammates: one mounted horseback with the other perched upon skis.
What began as a mode of transportation during harsh winters in Scandinavia has transformed into rapidly growing and competitive pastime throughout United States. A single rope, connected by the rider’s saddle and skier’s grasp, melds the teammates together as they navigate a series of jumps and gates while simultaneously collecting rings which are suspended course-side. Thundering power transferred from the stead’s determined, muscular legs ripples through the snowpack as teams take turns dashing across the track. While the rider is responsible for safely procuring one of the dangling rings during this journey, the burden of seizing the remaining (5-9) spheres falls upon the agility of the skier.
“People thinks it’s a horse race… it’s not,” explains Bellevue’s ski-joring event coordinator, Tyler Peterson. “The skier has to adapt to the pace and speed of the horse while not catching an edge. That’s just as big of a factor.”
Though Peterson admits he has witnessed one (or two) entertaining wrecks in his 15 years of involvement with ski-joring, he notes that most races are completed successfully. Points are deducted for each missed jump and ring with the victor of each age and skill bracket awarded points towards national ski-joring standings and a money added purse for upper divisions.
This year’s event in Bellevue will be held the weekend of March 3-4. Cowboys, skiers, adventure seekers and curious citizens of all ages are encouraged to participate in the action or enjoy the thrills from the sidelines.
“It’s a really fun event by itself, but we also like to give back,” Peterson states. Proceeds from the $5 admission price for the 2012 event will be donated to the Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicap (SETCH). Any interested in participating or simply intrigued by the sport of ski-joring may contact Peterson at email@example.com or by visiting http://www.woodriveresja.com.