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February 21, 2013
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Rocky Mountain Skijoring returns to Minturn this weekend

MINTURN - Skijoring is not complicated.

Follow your horse and don't fall down.

That's how skijoring will work at this weekend's Rocky Mountain Skijoring event in Minturn, except when it doesn't work like that.

"You have three different personalities, three minds working together," said Sherry Graham, patiently explaining that the three personalities are the horse, rider and skier.

If they're not all on the same track, something spectacular is gonna happen, in a NASCAR-crash-that-you-can't-stop-watching kind of way.

Skijoring skiers hold a tow rope with one hand and a wand in the other. The wand is not magic. The rope is attached to an extremely enthusiastic horse, which careens up the street through the snow, and they'll have plenty of snow. They've been stockpiling snow all winter in the parking lot at Holy Cross Energy, and Minturn has plenty of its own. They've been kind enough to let them store snow and use their backhoe to load it into dump trucks.

The skier is pulled at speeds that would indicate a complete lack of self-preservation. There are rings suspended above the snow and the skier weaves back and forth across the street and stabs the wand through the rings. The skier does this while flying 40 or 50 feet over jumps.

They repeat this at least twice. This is an American sport, so the fastest skier with the most rings wins.

Skijoring for fun and profit

Legend has it skijoring was started in Leadville back in 1949 by two guys who were sitting in a cafe drinking coffee and eating a pie. It was coffee they were drinking, they promise.

Locals like Graham and Rose Bearden introduced skijoring to places like New Hampshire, and it's gotten huge on the East Coast. They've been known to travel all the way to upstate New York.

If you're serious enough, you can travel to Quebec, New Hampshire and around the East Coast.

In these parts you can go skijoring in Minturn, Leadville and Silverton. You'll find two events in Wyoming, two in Idaho, and a few in Montana. Graham traveled to Whitefish, Mont., 22 hours one way, for the granddaddy of all skijoring events.

They award a world title every year, and if you want it, you'll have to hit the road.

"I travel all over the U.S. doing it, and I wanted to try to stay a little closer to home," Graham said. "It used to be huge in Colorado. We're trying to bring it back."

The local skijoring folks approached the Minturn town council who decided to give it a run.

"Minturn seems to be a great location for some of the off-beat events that might not fit in places like Beaver Creek," said Michelle Metteer, Minturn's event coordinator.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Feb 21, 2013 02:57PM Published Feb 21, 2013 02:54PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.