What started out as a method of winter-time transportation in Scandinavian countries several hundred years ago has evolved into the modern-day sport of skijoring.
For those not in the know, skijor is a sport involving a Nordic skier and something pulling this skier forward—whether it be a horse, a dog, or a motorized vehicle like a snowmobile. Skijoring is no longer about transportation. It has evolved into a worldwide sport with famous competitions, bringing together the best in the sport.
Here are the top competition events that any avid skijorer (or wannabe) should consider a household name:
The International Federation of Sleddog Sports Winter World Championships
Dog skijoring, the most common variety of the sport, is included under the umbrella of the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS), and the Winter World Champions is the major meet-up for international athletes.
Events include the one-dog skijor, the two-dog skijor, and the one-dog skijor/pulka combined event (pulka involves a small sled meant for transporting items). Separate races are held for men and women categories. Taking place every two years, the World Champions host country alternates between European countries and North American countries. North Pole, Alaska hosted the 2013 IFSS Winter World Championships this past spring, following in the footsteps of Norway, host of the 2011 event.
The World Skijoring Championships
Equestrian skijoring is a whole other world of skijoring—we’re talking literal horsepower. One horse pulls an athlete on skis, who is connected to the horse by way of a tow rope—think water skiing, but on snow and with a horse instead of a motorboat. This form of skijoring was featured as a demonstration sport in the 1928 Winter Olympics!
The World Skijoring Championships is all about equestrian skijoring. Held every other year in Whitefish, Montana, the event typically draws upwards of 90 teams. The event includes the traditional straight course and horseshoe course, and a special category: Murdoch’s Long Jump.
The straight course places the horse in the middle of the course, with the skier navigating obstacles on either side of the track. Obstacles include slalom gates and jumps up to nine feet in height. Some events amp up the difficulty level by having the skier collect rings from stations on the course.
The horseshoe-shaped course sets the horse up to run on the inside of a track, with the skier navigating slalom gates and four- to six-foot high jumps.
“Murdoch’s Long Jump” gets the horse racing at top speeds in a straight line, with the skier jumping of an eight to ten foot jump and covering as much ground as possible, landing upright on the flat. The winner cleared an astonishing 56 feet!
The Road Runner 100
Dubbed “the longest skijor race in North America”, the Road Runner 100 takes dog skijoring to new distances. As the name suggests, racers must navigate a 100 mile course. Taking place in Yukon, Canada, skijor teams can clock in at speeds as high as 10.2 miles per hour. Top finishers complete the race in just under 10 hours. Talk about endurance!
The East Meets West Dryland Championships
No snow? No problem! Bikejoring is just what it sounds like: dogs pulling a musher on a bicycle! Dryland racing began as a way to train for dog sledding in the off season, but training methods like bikejoring are so popular that they, too, have their own competitions.
Clearwater, Minnesota played host to the biggest bikejoring competition: the Easy Meets West Dryland Championships. The 1 dog bikejoring event covered a distance of 1.6 miles, while the two dog bikejoring covered 2.2 miles.
So… who was the best, East or West? The East took first place for the 1 dog bikejor, while the West claimed victory for the 2 dog bikejor!
Curious about skijoring? If you live in an area that experiences winter (sorry, Florida!), it might be more accessible than you think! Start by looking into local skijor or dog sledding clubs. We’ll see you at the World Champions!