Last weekend marked the seventh annual National Ski Joring Association Championships in Whitefish, Montana (the pictures on this post are from the 2014 event). Skijoring in Whitefish has a history stretching back at least half a century. During the 1960s and early ’70s, the annual Whitefish Winter Carnival prominently featured a skijoring competition. However, in the mid-’70s, Carnival organizers realized that they couldn’t cover insurance costs associated with skijoring. So the sport, along with broom street hockey, snow mobile jumping, and the Bar-to-Bar snowshoeing race all disappeared from the Carnival schedule. I have a sneaking suspicion that didn’t stop Whitefish’s cowboys and ski bums from skijoring, however because when businessman Scott Ping campaigned to bring the sport back in 2003, it was met with widespread support. Skijoring has featured large in Whitefish every year since 2003, and in 2009 the competition became the NSJA’s championship event.
So what is skijoring, you ask. Imagine water skiing, except on snow. And instead of a boat, you are being pulled by a horse. And instead of glassy water, there are obstacles and jumps you have to navigate. So really, imagine the most fun you possibly can. As the name suggests, skijoring started in Scandinavia. The word means “ski driving,” and people frequently skijor behind dogs, reindeer, or riderless horses. There have also been skijoring competitions using motorcycles and snow mobiles. However, in the Rocky Mountains skijoring with a horse and rider is the most popular version. This makes sense, because cowboys and ski bums make up the majority of the region. In addition to the World Championships in Whitefish, Montana will also have skijoring events in Wisdom and Anaconda.
Bonus: Check out this awesome SouthWest Montana video of the Big Hole Valley Winterfest: