Skijoring, or ski driving, is a winter sport that originates in Scandinavia, where it has been practiced for centuries. It involves towing a skier behind horses or dogs. In addition to being a rapid way to get around, it is also a competitive winter sport in some parts of the United States, particularly the Northwest and Midwest. Especially when done with horses, skijoring is sometimes classified as an extreme sport because of the high rate of speed and potential danger involved. It is also a great deal of fun when carried out safely.
Horse skijoring usually involves two people and one horse. One person rides the horse while the skier is towed behind. The rider determines the pace and route, while the skier attempts to hold on. Some horse skijoring competitions integrate jumps and extreme skiing maneuvers in addition to conventional jumps. The horses used tend to be extremely agile and quick, and breeds such as the American Quarterhorse are favored for the sport.
Skijoring with horses requires a well-coordinated team, with lots of communication between horse, rider, and skier. Many professional competitions have a complex obstacle course that the trio must navigate successfully. Points are awarded for skill, with some competitions involving small plastic rings which must be collected for points as well. Rider and skier should wear helmets in case of collisions or accidents.
When done with dogs, skijoring can be done with one skier and one dog, or team of dogs. The dog must weigh at least 35 pounds (15 kilograms), or be combined with another dog for pulling power. When doing this, the dog is usually viewed as a helper, rather than the primary source of power. Recreational skijoring with dogs is very popular in the Midwest, with some skiers using it as a primary mode of transportation in the winter.
This sport requires minimal equipment: the human and animal participants along with a strap, which is hooked into harnesses worn by both human and animal. The strap is usually at least 12 feet (four meters) in length, with a quick release in case of emergency. Some snow courses may restrict animal access, and enthusiasts are encouraged to check ahead to be certain that they are welcome on the slopes. Thoses interested in this sport can connect with several national and international organizations which promote skijoring education and events. Lessons are advised, as the sport can be dangerous for those who are not properly educated.