Ski Racing With a Rope


By Matt Crossett | Skijoring Magazine

Being on the skiing side of a team is no joke, especially if you want to play with the big boys - the big boys being the open division. That being said, not all courses are equal. There are a few cultural rules in skijoring that separate northern races from southern.

There are a few simple things to know in the North vs the South Skijoring Culture. In the south, there are a lot more rings for the skiers to collect. Plus, they must hold a baton while they’re doing it. Southern races also tend to have a separate skier track for the Open (Pro) division that is far more dangerous than the Novice and Sport. In the North, most races only have one skier track for all divisions. Also, many southern races showcase a match and a draw. So instead of matching with a teammate on both your runs, you will get your teammate for one run then be randomly paired with another horse/ rider for your second run.

This draw method was developed in Leadville primarily to combat one team from dominating the competition and to encourage new contestants to enter the competition. After all, it can be difficult to get a fast horse if you are an unproven skier. Some have gotten lucky through friends or family; others spend years coming to events to cultivate relationships to find the right teammate for victory.

Skijoring draws many former ski racers to the sport. But it’s not always a ski race. You’ve got to realize a few things. Every course is different. Straight tracks can easily become a horse race. For instance, a race like Silverton and Leadville will be challenging for everyone but will include a lot of rings and not require the horse to ever slow down for skiers to make gates. However, a course like Jackson Hole or Bozeman, where there are very few rings, may set the gates extra tight. This forces skiers to make faster cuts and turns. Occasionally, the horses may even have to slow down a bit as part of your strategy to complete the course penalty free. Certain creative course builders are even taking it on themselves to build bank turns, transfers, and portions of the course where horses must be moved over a bit. Examples of this include 320 Ranch and San Juan Skijoring.

If you’re not on a straight track, you’re gonna be running a round or j-hook type track. These tracks require more skill for the horseman as they are navigating two turns on snow and ice to get you the fastest time. Unlike straight tracks, there’s no ring on round tracks. So, if you just came for the skiing and hate the rings, do a round track. Round tracks mostly only have one designated skier track.

However, course builder Tyler Smedsrud has been growing the trend of multiple skier tracks for round courses. At his race in Ridgway they feature a J-hook style track with one set of jumps for the Novice/Sport and a much larger set of jumps for the Open division.

Round tracks give you a lot of momentum going into the corner. So, be ready! That rope will slide right out of your hand if you don’t hold on tight. Navigate those gates and land jumps all the way to victory with the fastest time. No matter what track you are running, plan on bringing a sturdy pair of gloves, preferably with some sticky, rubber material on the palm.

If you think you’re a dope snowboarder, you can usually give it a go at most tracks. But, don’t plan on winning or getting a decent horse. We know, you’re super cool on your board. But cowboys care about winning, not how cool you look. So strap on a pair and earn that money.

Published on 8/14/2019 (293 days ago)

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