Skijoring soars back into Minturn | VailDaily.com
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Skijoring soars back into Minturn

Skijoring returns to Minturn this weekend. The races begin Saturday. Here skier Lars Grater, right, hangs on tight as rider Allen Bearden and his horse Jesse pull Grater over the second of three jumps on the Minturn Skijoring course last year.
Dominique Taylor/Daily file photo |

If You Go ...

What: Rocky Mountain Skijoring in Minturn.

When: Saturday and Sunday.

Where: Minturn, behind the Turntable on Old Minturn Road.

Cost: Entry fees are $35 per person.

Information: Registration is from 8-10 a.m. both days at the Turntable restaurant. Competition follows shortly after. There’s a silent auction and bake sale. The money goes to the Shaw Regional Cancer Center. Email rockymountainskijoring@gmail.com, or go to http://www.rockymountainskijoring.com

Skijoring is one of those “Here, hold-my-beer-and-watch-this” events that would explain why women live longer than men, except women do it, too.

“If you follow your horse, you’re fine. If you don’t, there’s always a possibility that not much good will happen to you,” Bruce Stott said.

Skijoring returned to Minturn last weekend as competitors gathered from all over the Rocky Mountain West to follow their horses and a set of uncomplicated instructions.

Skiers hold a rope with one hand and a wand in the other. The rope is attached to an extremely enthusiastic horse.

As the horse careens up the street through the snow — and they have plenty of snow — the skier is pulled along at speeds that call into question his/her sense of self-preservation.

The skier weaves back and forth across the street using the wand to stab rings, while flying 40 or 50 feet over jumps. The fastest skier with the most rings wins.

Try it

They’re happy to let you try it. The liability waiver is 3D, speaking liberally of Death, Dismemberment and Disability, which is how you know skijoring is really fun. You’ll start in the sport division, and you don’t need your own horse.

“Anything can happen. 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, then something spectacular is gonna happen, in a NASCAR crash-that-you-can’t-stop-watching kind of way.

Some of them compete professionally. They travel to some of the West’s more far-flung places. White Fish, Mont., is a regular tour stop. Stott had just returned from Red Lodge, Mont., and Loren Zhimanskova was on her way.

The local skijoring folks were determined to get more events in this area, and thought about Minturn. They approached the town staff, who smiled and said something like, “OH YEAH! LET’S DO THAT!” because the Minturn town staff understands that fun is good.

“The town of Minturn has been a big part of the organization process,” Zhimanskova said. “They’ve been supportive and fun to work with.”

You need wide open spaces for skijoring. The track has to be about 900 feet long, then a runout area so the horses have room to stop.

All kinds of people do it. Last weekendin Minture featured folks such as Mo Fingers, whose real name is Jason Rinaldi — an Italian from Brooklyn.

“What’s so pure and amazing about this sport — you’ll see a cowboy with a scruffy beard and beat up hat talking to an extreme skier in alpine gear,” Zhimanskova said.

It’s a tight-knit community and everyone gets along. It’s necessary. If you’re a skier and you draw a cowboy to whom you’ve been unpleasant … well, we’ll just say it comes back around to nothing good happening to you when you fail to follow your horse.

skijoring leads to Leadville

In North America, skijoring traces its roots back to Leadville.

“The Leadville event is still the granddaddy of skijoring,” said Rose Bearden, who’s helping put the Minturn event together.

Legend has it skijoring was started in Leadville back in 1949 by two guys who were sitting in a cafe drinking a cup of coffee and eating a pie, and we’re assured nothing stronger than coffee was consumed.

Actually, skijoring began hundreds of years ago in Scandinavian countries as a way to travel during the long winters. Laplanders skied on Nordic skis holding reins and driving reindeer. The first competitive event we know about was in 1907, during a Swiss winter event called White Turf.

In 1928, skijoring was included as a sport at the Olympics in St. Moritz. If Colorado had hosted the Olympics in 1976, then skijoring would have been included as an exhibition sport.

By the mid 1940s, skijoring found its way to North America, where ranchers attached a long rope to the saddle horn of a horse that was ridden at high speeds down a long straightaway. Tracks can also be oval or horseshoe shaped.

Skijoring is gaining popularity as a summer sport on beaches.

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


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