Bizarre contest shows daredevil skiers roped to horses as they fly down snowy slopes
By Amanda Schmidt | AccuWeather
(Facebook/Elora Akins Photography)
The adrenaline rushes. Hearts pound. And then the starting light goes green. The rider soars off guiding a horse through the course -- while pulling one daredevil skier over various jumps, turns and other obstacles.
The sight is as bizarre as it is captivating. This is a pastime known as “skijoring," an extreme winter sport in which a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog or a motor vehicle. 'Only in America,' you might think to yourself. Well, sort of. This odd sport has its roots in Northern Europe -- but America, as the video highlights show, is where it was perfected.
The sport's origin can be traced back to the 1850s in Scandinavia, where people used it as a form of transportation. In fact, the name of the sport is derived from the Norwegian word skikjøring meaning “ski driving.”
Winters in the western United States, in states like Colorado and Montana, can bring frigid, snowy and unbearable conditions. Many residents may find it difficult to leave the house, and towns driven by tourism can experience a decline in visitors.
Skijoring is a winter event that brings people from all walks of life together during the harsh winter months.
“I’ve met some pretty awesome people that I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for skijoring,” said Mariah Gibson, a skijoring rider and secretary at Skijoring America, one of the sport's two sanctioning bodies.
Skijoring events have been popping up in places across the West, with teams typically consisting of a rider, a horse and a skier or snowboarder.
The horse and rider take a track to the inside of the course while the skier soars in tow. The skier must maneuver through a number of gates and jumps throughout the course, aiming to complete the course in the shortest amount of time.
Gibson spends her days as a seventh-grade language arts teacher, but she spends her weekends traveling with her husband, Jarid, to different skijoring competitions.
About five years ago, the couple decided to try skijoring together. Gibson was a natural fit to be the rider because she had grown up competing in rodeos, which left the skiing to Jarid.
“We combined our two hobbies, our two passions, and we went on the road together,” Gibson explained.
As a rider, Gibson prepares the horses prior to the event. She said that the race is the “shortest, but most fun part” of the event.
“Sometimes, I can hardly tell if there is a skier behind me, and most of the time, I’m just hearing the crowd’s reaction to what’s going on,” Gibson said. “I don’t look back, I look forward, and I wait to see what happens at the end.”
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Published on 9/13/2019 (68 days ago)