Skijoring is a fast growing winter sport which combines cross country skiing and dog mushing. Imagine just you and your dog quietly gliding along a tree-lines trail on a crisp, sunny winter day. Or, if you are in for more thrills, you can compete with other dog/owner teams in a fast paced sprint race three to five miles or so in length.
Skijoring is also done with horses. One person rides the horse while the skier is towed behind. Horse competitions often include jumps and extreme skiing maneuvers. This is sometimes classified as an extreme sport because of the high speed and potential danger, as you can see from this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zolWG7Jg54E
However, you can skijor for recreation with only one or two dogs and minimal equipment: basic cross-country gear, a harness for your dog, a skijoring belt and a 12 ft. towline. (In summer you can use the equipment with roller blades, scooters, or bikes.) Skijoring is great exercise, and the dogs love it. A dog should weight at least 35 pounds or be combined with another dog. The dog is actually the helper, rather than the primary source of power, but together top sprint racing teams often reach speeds of 20 – 30 mph. Before embarking on skijoring, look into organizations that can provide some training and the opportunity to observe, or find a mentor.
“Skijoring has something for everyone, and can be broken down into five general categories: Recreational Skijoring, Skijor Sprint Racing, Skijor Distance Racing, Backwoods Skijoring and Pulka, or Nordic-style dog mushing. Each category provides unique challenges and rewards for its participants, but one theme resonates throughout - skijorers love their dogs and enjoy spending time with them outdoors,” according to skijournow.com.
Professional dog mushers sometimes skijor when training their dogs. Miki Collins, co-author of Dog Driver, trains lead dogs while skijoring because she can easily lead from behind with a simple tug on the rope. Skijoring alone with a dog may help a dog that does not want to pull. The Collins team dogs are trained for skijoring, to carry packs, skid poles, and pull plastic sleds as well as run as part of a sled team.
Pulka, or Nordic-style dog mushing, involves skijoring with a small sled (pulk) attached between skijorer and dog. The pulk is the most efficient option for carrying supplies over a distance - as opposed to a backpack – and is popular with backwoods skijorers and frequently included in the equipment of distance racers. In Scandinavia, pulka driving is very popular and children are often given rides in pulks specifically designed to carry them.
Watch our homepage for suggestions on more activities you can do to bond with and enjoy your dogs and horses.