Ask anyone what skiing is and they’ll tell you: it’s a winter sport where you travel over snow by gliding along the top on long, thin pieces of footwear. There are numerous kinds of skiing–cross-country being one of the all-time favorites. Now ask what skijoring is, and be prepared for a quizzical look!
Never heard of it? It’s not a big surprise. Though it’s been around since at least 1901, skijoring was only once ever featured in the Winter Olympic Games, as a demonstration sport in 1928. Though it hasn’t featured in the Olympics since then, there have been other competitions. Notably, the city of Leadville, Colorado has held a skijoring competition annually since 1949.
So, what is it? Simply-put, skijoring is cross-country skiing…while being pulled behind something. What that “something” is depends on where and when you are; the first skijoring participants were towed behind horses and sled dogs, which are both the primary methods of locomotion even today. The Leadville competition uses horses, which pull skiers now only over the snow, but through obstacles and over jumps. Modern times have also brought with them a new variety of skijoring: motorized skijoring, in which the skier is pulled behind a snowmobile or even a motorcycles.
Despite being relatively unheard of, skijor races are held in numerous countries each year, often alongside sled dog racing since they have parallel requirements: snow and trained sled dogs. Unlike sled dog racing, skijoring does not have a breed limitation or requirement for the dogs that participate in it. Skijoring is considered a kind of mushing, the name for the family of sports involving being pulled by dogs.
In skijor races powered by horses, there may or may not be a rider on the horse at the same time it is pulling the skier behind it. Skijor races with jumps and other obstacles tend to have a rider to better guide the horse. In riderless races, and in races with dogs, the animal is controlled by signals from the skier.
The word ‘œskijoring’ comes from the Norwegian word ‘œskikjoring’, which means ‘ œski driving’