Rocky Mountain Skijoring returns to Minturn this weekend, and they’ve added barstool races | VailDaily.com

Rocky Mountain Skijoring returns to Minturn this weekend, and they’ve added barstool races

MINTURN — Cowboys and cowgirls are not complicated, and neither is their favorite winter outdoor activity, skijoring.

Follow your horse and don't fall down.

You can see for yourself just how good an uncomplicated life can be when skijoring returns to Minturn this weekend. Cowboys, skiers and horses compete, with no one quite sure whose side the beer is taking.

Loren Zhimanskova started Skijor International. She and Michelle Metteer run the Minturn event and several others around the region because it's as much fun as cowpersons can have with their boots on. And also because skijoring brings together some pretty diverse characters.

"What's so pure and amazing about this sport, is that you'll see a cowboy with a scruffy beard and beat up hat talking to an extreme skier in alpine gear," Loren said.

What IS SKIJORING?

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Three minds are supposed to work together: 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.

Skijoring skiers hold a towrope with one hand and a wand in the other. The wand is not magic. The rope is attached to an extremely enthusiastic horse, with its rider along for the ride.

The horse careens up the street through the snow. Behind the horse, the skier is pulled at speeds that 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 over jumps 8 feet high.

The fastest skier with the most rings wins.

Barstool racing

New to Minturn this year are Barstool Races. Loren was in Sundance, Wyoming, for a skijoring event when she saw it for the first time. Brilliant ideas are portable, and this one came to Minturn.

It's 11 a.m. Saturday. Just look for the people having way too much fun and you've found it.

Like skijoring, barstool races are not complicated.

"Barstool racing is for everyone. You don't have to ride a horse, you don't have to go over jumps. Anyone can sit on a barstool," Loren said.

The barstool is attached to skis. Racers assume a drinking position while someone else pushes the barstool down the course.

"We have no idea what to expect, which is part of the fun," Metteer said.

You start at point A, some of your buddies push you and you end at point B.

In between, you and your barstool obey the laws of gravity with missionary zeal.

If you can create additional ways to make your barstool go faster, then by all means do it, Metteer said.

The gear is also uncomplicated.

"Get a barstool and some old skis and put them together somehow," Metteer explained.

Welding and screws can work. Take your chances with duct tape.

"There's some tinkering involved," Metteer said.

It'll be fun, and you've thrown yourself onto barstools for much worse causes.

From Minturn to Montana

You really can make money at skijoring. Competitors travel to some of the West's more far-flung places. Whitefish, Montana, is a regular tour stop. So is Red Lodge, Montana.

A few years ago, the local skijoring folks approached the Minturn town staff, who smiled and said something like, "Oh yeah! Let's do that!" because the Minturn town staff understands that fun is good.

"Minturn is setting itself apart as a community-oriented event that is also first-class," Loren said.

They get competitors from five or six states, including Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Montana.

Last year, they paid the horse for the first time. This year they're offering the open division 70 percent of the pot.

A little about Loren

Zhimanskova was born and raised on the East Coast, and her mother had visions of her beautiful daughter being the U.S. ambassador to France.

Zhimanskova is an exercise in diversity. Her business card lists addresses in Manhattan and McCoy. She's the proud owner of an Ivy League education from Yale and loves to tell a good story. She picked the skijoring story.

Zhimanskova was living in McCoy and was recruited by a local rancher to volunteer at the Minturn event five years ago. That was it. She had found her passion.

"I used my Yale education to do something to make a mark. I've learned as much skijoring as I ever did in college," Loren said. "These people are genuine. They'll help and support each other no matter what. Seeing that kind of camaraderie is inspiring."

All skijoring leads to Leadville

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

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

The legend says one of them had a hold-my-beer-and-watch-this epiphany, and the next thing you know they were skijoring in Leadville.

In reality, skijoring began hundreds of years ago in Scandinavian countries as a way to travel during the long winters. Laplanders strapped 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.

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

If You Go …

What: Rocky Mountain Skijoring

When: Racing begins at noon, Saturday and Sunday. Barstool racing is 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: Minturn

Cost: Admission is free for spectators

Information: For information, including barstool racing, go to skijorminturn.com and rmxskijoring.com.