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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


For the week of February 19 - 25, 2003

Sports

Ski joring hooks
horses and skiers

Ancient sport pulls crowds, skiers in Hailey


By MICHAEL AMES
Express Staff Writer

"Letís give a big round of applause for all of our human and equine athletes!"

Thatís what they said when scores of fans cheered competitors of all shapes and sizes at the Hailey BMX track last weekend for the National Ski Joring Championships.

"Hailey always puts on the best race of the year," said Smokey Mt. Ski Joring Association Director and competitive jorer himself, Kurtis Stutz of Fairfield.

Stutz took first place in the recreational Sport Division. He skied behind a horse named Ketchika, which was ridden by Stutzís friend and associate Jeff Schroeder.

Itís definitely a crossover team sport.

Ever since becoming officially sanctioned at Jackson, Wyo. in 1999, ski joring has been a steadily growing sport with burgeoning interest in both the equestrian and skiing worlds.

Ski joring has ancient roots. Joring was originally a form of locomotion for Nordic skiers using reindeer to pull them across the vast snowy tundra of Scandinavia.

The sport has evolved and expanded its scope since those beginnings. And it operates within flexible parameters.

"Last year we had some guys come with a camel," said Stutz. "If they can pull a skier behind and itís not motorized then youíre welcome to compete."

Though the Haley race was lacking any dromedarian athletes this year, fans did get to see the best the sport has to offer.

Upon pulling into the parking lot off Croy Creek Road west of Hailey, one had the feeling this was a different sort of sporting event.

As winds howled and snow drifted on Sunday afternoon, excitement coursed through the participants, human and otherwise.

Horses whinnied and reared up as steam poured from their flared nostrils. Meanwhile, top-level ski racers skated around piles of hay and manure as they prepared for their next run.

"After my first race I was hooked," said rider and two-year reigning NASJA champion Dana Stiles of Eagle, Colo. during the Hailey event.

Though she has never skied herself, Stiles loves the combination of the two classically western past-times.

She said, "Youíve got skiers who donít know a thing about horses and riders who have never skiedóand the combination is where the magic is."

Though some races are held on an oval track, the events of this past weekend were a little different.

Horses took a straight run as skiers navigated a series of gates and jumps while also trying to snag hanging rings with an open arm at exceedingly high speeds.

"The tips of my fingers are all bruised from trying to get that high ring," Stiles said.

She showed off purplish digits, the result of trying to spear cold, hard ring at speeds of over 40 mph. This extra jockey ring added a challenge for the already preoccupied riders.

"I think itís a pretty even balance, though," Stiles said when questioned on the distribution of work between the inter-species team of three.

Stiles won the top Open Division on a horse named Merlin drawing skier Cody Smith.

Each day ended with the long jump competition where the skier is pulled by a horse that is pushed as fast as it can.

Tricks were tossed in for the crowdís pleasure, but distance was the sole criteria for winning this event. Stiles came out on top of this competition when she pulled her skier, Bruce Stott. He sailed 66 feet off the ramp.

Later, human competitors gathered at Haileyís Red Elephant for drinks, tall tales of joring highjinks and an awards ceremony.

The horses waited patiently outside.

Among locals who placed in the big race were Ed Uhrig, who rode Chucky and pulled skier Skip Merrick to a second-place finish in the Sport Division, and Kelly Cole, who rode Otis and pulled skier Shannon Webb to a third-place finish in the Womenís Division.

The sport may seem fringe to the uninformed, but ask any of these competitors and youíll find athletes who are, in their own words, "right on the cusp of going BIG."

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.