Skijoring in Minturn is part of Thursday’s World Championships lineup

Skijoring returns to Minturn as part of today's 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships lineup. This is skier Lars Grater hanging on as rider Allen Bearden and his horse Jesse pull Grater over the second of three jumps. The sport class starts at noon, and the pros start at 2 p.m.
Dominique Taylor|Daily file photo |

If You Go

Skijoring in Minturn

What: Rocky Mountain Ski Joring in Minturn.

When: Thursday: Sport division noon, Open division 2 p.m.

Where: Behind the Turntable restaurant in Minturn, on Old Minturn Road.

Cost: Free for spectators

Information: The money goes to the Mountain Valley Horse Rescue. Free event parking available in the Municipal Lot, across from the Turntable Restaurant. It’s an outdoor event, dress appropriately. No pets. There’s a pre-event party Wednesday night at the Minturn Saloon, and a party following Thursday’s competition featuring the country artist Jai Baker. The two charities are Mountain Valley Horse Rescue and the Vail Valley Veterans Program.

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

Skijoring is not complicated.

Follow your horse and don’t fall down.

Three minds are supposed to work together: the horse, rider and skier, explained Loren Zhimanskova of Skijor International.

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.

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This year’s event is part of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

“We’re thrilled to be on the FIS calendar, and the Vail Valley Foundation has been so supportive,” Loren said. “The town’s people are working so hard to make this happen.”

What skijoring is

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 with its rider.

The horse careens up the street through the snow. Behind that horse, the skier is pulled at speeds that indicate a complete lack of self-preservation.

There are these 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.

All skijoring leads to Leadville

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

Legend has it 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.

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, 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.

From Minturn to Montana

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

Loren is helping pull together a regional tour because it’s still expensive to drive diesel pickup trucks pulling horse trailers to Montana.

A couple of 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 a little gem nestled into this canyon. It’s a stone’s throw from the big resorts, but it’s a great escape,” Loren said. “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.

Speaking of diversity, Loren’s business card lists addresses in Manhattan and McCoy.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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