In a world gone high tech down to the way cars, phones and ovens work, the idea of skiing behind a horse might seen kind of quaint, perhaps old-fashioned. And indeed, skijoring began centuries ago in Scandinavia as a way to traverse long snowy miles, a kind of cross between plowing and dog sledding.
Recreational ski joring caught on in this country a bit later, and by the 1950s ranchers were attaching long ropes to saddle horns atop horses that were ridden at high speeds down long straight-aways. Now it is a full-fledged competitive sport, with a sanctioning body, the North American Ski Joring Association. Competitors must navigate a course of jumps, gates and rings while being pulled across a snowy obstacle course by a horse charging along at up to 40 miles per hour.
Beginning at noon, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23 and 24, the fourth annual Wood River Extreme Ski Joring Competition will be held on Baseline Road between Highway 75 and Gannett. To participate head over to Mama Inez, on Main Street in Bellevue at 6 p.m. today, Feb. 22, to register.
"Skiers will need to bring their own skies and helmets to compete," said organizer Tyler Peterson. "Ski jorers with a lot of experience sometimes put risers on their binders. We'll supply the ropes."
Peterson said that aside from experienced ski jorers there are a lot of "people every year who just want to try it just one time.
"We have some coming from as far away as Portland that have never tried it and want to," he said. "And there are others who have traveled the circuit and have made good money in prizes."
A successful race includes two to three jumps ranging from 3 to 6 feet in height. Jorers grab from three to nine rings and try to stay upright. Points are deducted for missed or dropped rings and missed jumps. People of all ages compete though courses that are a bit different for each. Winners are based on the combined overall score for both days.
For spectators, the competition is like tailgating in the snow. After the competition on Saturday there will be a special feature for those who want to witness a few thrills. Snow machine freestyler Joe Parsons, who has been in the X Games and other extreme competitions, will do an exhibition of snowmobile tricks.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Wood River Kiwanis Club and to Hunt of a Lifetime, a nonprofit organization with a mission to grant hunting and fishing adventures and dreams for children who have been diagnosed with life threatening illnesses.
Wood River Extreme Ski Joring Competition
Friday: Register at 6 p.m., Mama Inez, Main St. Bellevue.
Saturday: Competition starts at noon, Baseline Road, south of Bellevue.
7 p.m. Raffle, Auction and Dance at The Mint, with music by Straight Up, Main St. Hailey.
Sunday: Competition starts at Noon, Baseline Road, south of Bellevue.
6:30 p.m. Awards and post-race raffle at Mahoney's, Main St. Bellevue.