Skijoring returns to Minturn for weekend
February 27, 2016
If you go …
Noon: Open division begins with the sport division to follow.
5 p.m.: The apres skijor party kicks off at Magusto’s in Minturn with music by the Turntable Revue.
MINTURN — What do you get when you take a skier, give him/her a rope attached to a horse with its rider and send them down a course at 40 mph with jumps and rings to grab? It all adds up to the RMX Skijoring event, taking place in Minturn this weekend.
"We've got great crowds, beautiful weather and fast horses," said Jason Dahl, of Castle Rock, who was competing in the open division on Saturday. "I haven't found a rush like it. It's a fun time."
It takes focus, determination and a fine level of insanity to compete in skijoring.
"It's like a cross between skiing and water skiing," said Greg Dahl, of Fruita, after completing the course for the first time on Saturday. "Man, what a kick in the pants."
While the competition is open to first-timers, many of the skijorers have been doing it for years and travel around the region to other skijoring events.
"I do it for the rush," said Shawn Gerber, a 12-year skijoring competitor from Edwards. "It's the best 15-second rush you can get."
In the mid-1940s, skijoring made its way to the United States when World War II ended and the men from the 10th Mountain Division returned home. With no lifts or resorts back then, they had their cowboy friends attach a rope to their saddle and tote them at high speeds down long straightaways.
Now, skijoring is a competitive sport that extends throughout the Rocky Mountain region with a circuit of nearly 15 locations, including Minturn.
Angela Gilvagnoli, of Eagle, was riding Skittles on Saturday, pulling skiers through the course set up with views of Meadow Mountain and the Lionshead rock.
"It's awesome. I'm an adrenaline junky, so this is like my favorite thing in the world," Gilvagnoli said. "(Skittle's) an ex-racehorse, so he loves this stuff. He lives to run, so this is his sport."
New this year, and most likely making a return next year after much fanfare, was the barstool race.
Eight teams constructed barstools with skis attached to compete in a short race. The unique forms of transportation ranged from a tiki-themed barstool to a toilet-seat barstool to ones that looked like horses with a saddle.
Spectators lined the side of the course, some standing in the crash zone.
Dani Garrett, representing Leadfoot Linda's, made it to the final round but ended in fourth place at the first annual event.
"I've never been on skis," she said. "I don't even know how to ski."
In the very first heat, Kelly Toon came barreling down the side of the course into onlookers, who couldn't seem to move.
"It was the camera bag. My front ski got caught on it and I couldn't get started again, so I'm blaming the paparazzi," he said. "No one was clearing the way. It was scary."
Joe Manly, of Leadfoot Skijoring, went home with the first-place prize — a $200 cash prize to be used in the town of Minturn.
Manly's key to success was "the engine," he said, referring to his team that pushed him out of the start. Manly said he's been on barstools before, but never like this.
"That was the first time I ever rode it," Manly said.
In true American fashion, Manly later played the national anthem on an electric guitar to kick off the skijoring.
Cathy Lauby, Kelli Walker and Joe Bennett assembled the toilet-seat barstool.
"I figured I'd be taking a crap going down," Walker said.
Skijoring wraps up today. The open division gets underway at noon with the sport division to follow.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.