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Skijoring - Not Your Average Winter Sport

 

Maggie Mullen | wyomingpublicmedia.org

Image: Skier Gwen Parker and rider Kristen Yazzie compete at the Third Annual Saratoga Skijoring Races.
Eric Krszjzaniek

What do you get when you put together a horse, a pair of skis, and two daredevils? It's an old sport that's being revived across our region.

It's not unusual to see horses on the prairie outside of Saratoga in southeastern Wyoming. But the ones I was looking at were not so usual. They were wearing a saddle-normal-with a rider on it-normal. But attached to the saddle was a long rope, and attached to that was someone on a pair of regular downhill skis. The horses were galloping parallel to an obstacle course with the skier getting dragged through it. Not all of the skiers made it to the end of the course, but the ones did that did ended up at a five-foot-tall jump that sent them flying through the air.

This is skijoring. It got started in Norway in the mid-1800s. It came from a Norwegian word that means ski-driving and it's based on Native American dog sledding traditions. Today, skijoring races take place in Europe and across the U.S. Saratoga hosts a race every year.

It was day two of the weekend tournament and contestants gathered at the finish line for a quick morning meeting. Will Faust has helped organize the event since races started here three years ago. He said this year the course is especially technical.

"So there were some really good wipeouts and crashes. I had one of them and I'm really hurting," he said, grimacing.

But that wouldn't keep him from getting back on his skis today.

Volunteer Joey Saverine said the first year, conditions were so warm and dry they had to bring in their own snow on both days of the tournament.

"We had to rebuild the track from scratch Sunday morning," he said. "We were all out here at about 5 o'clock in the morning."

But this year he said they got lucky since it's been snowy here.

"With the really cold snap that happened last week, the snow actually stayed," he explained.

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Published on 8/15/2019 (226 days ago)

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