Friday, February 4, 2011

Skijoring returning to Bellevue

Horses, riders, skiers warm up for races

Express Staff Writer

A racer goes for a wild ride in a skijoring competition in the Wood River Valley. Photo by Mountain Express

Skijoring will soon be back in Bellevue after a year's hiatus, and with a record $1,500 purse for the fastest, cleanest horse and skier team to cross the finish line, this year's race is destined to bring out some serious competition.

Spectators are welcome to the event at 26 Townsend Gulch on Saturday, Feb. 12, and Sunday, Feb. 13. Opening ceremonies will begin at noon Saturday and the competition will end when the last team is done. On Sunday, racers will convene again and the winner will be chosen from the combined scores of both days.

A successful run of the race means crossing the finish line of the 800-foot-plus course with the skier having executed two to three jumps ranging from 3 to 6 feet high and grabbing three to nine rings. The rider must also grab a ring. Points are deducted for missed or dropped rings and missed jumps. Speed—which often reaches 40 miles per hour—is a factor. Parents with eager pee-wees and juniors can take a little comfort in knowing those ages are not required to hit the jumps.

No one with a horse and rider, skis and skier and a desire to participate will be denied for the price of entry, which starts at $25.

Signups are available online by visiting the Wood River Extreme Ski Joring website at The website will be updated with race details as the event date approaches. To speak to a real person for information, call Tyler Peterson at 720-0329.

Anyone who wants to try but has not found a partner can call and the organization will try and pair people up. A practice track will be available for those who would like to try their hand at the sport before committing.

Skijoring comes from a centuries-old custom revived from Scandinavia and first seen in North America in the 1950s. Laplanders used animals and skis as a way of travel during winters. The technique of skijoring grew into sport from challenges among ranch hands on their everyday work. Organizers nationwide are pushing for inclusion of the sport in the X-games.

Today's events resemble extreme water skiing. The sport continues to grow each year with competitors like extreme skier Glen Plake taking the challenge, and many of the Pro Division contestants here are making the circuit of races throughout the West.

Organizers are encouraging all to bring the family and have a tailgate picnic while watching the show. People can bring their own food or sample the wares of local vendors on site. There is a gate fee of $5 per person. Kids under 10 are free. Pets on leashes with courteous (pooper-scooping) people are welcome.

On Saturday night, there will be a dance and auction at the Silver Dollar Saloon on Main Street in Bellevue. Sunday's tally and awards event will be held at Mahoney's, across

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