Abandoned Olympic events: skiing, with a four-legged friend

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Colleen Slattery, Sports Editor

 

An adventurous skijoring competitor sails off a mound of snow in a race in Leadville. –Photo courtesy of Kaila Angelic.
An adventurous skijoring competitor sails off a mound of snow in a race in Leadville.
–Photo courtesy of Kaila Angelic.

With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, this is an appropriate time to take a look at their long and storied past. There are many winter Olympic sports that are overlooked (and long out of fashion), one of which is the sport of skijoring.

Skijoring is a term that comes from the Norwegian word skikjøring, which literally translates to “ski driving.” In this odd winter sport, a skier is pulled behind dogs, horses, or motorized vehicles.

When it was first showcased at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the skiers were pulled behind horses. This variant of skijoring is said to have originated as a mode of travel during the winter months, but today it is solely a competitive sport. The skier is pulled by a horse and has no poles with which to help balance himself. The horse may be either rider-less, in which case the skier has to guide the horse himself, or ridden by a guide who navigates the horse through the racecourse.

Another variation of skijoring is dog skijoring. In this case, the skier is pulled by one to three dogs, harnessed to the skis with a sled dog harness. The skier here has his own set of poles and uses cross country skis. The dogs have no guidance except the verbal direction of the skier. Many types of dogs are able to participate in skijoring, although typically you may find pointers, setters, Siberian and Alaskan huskies, and even golden retrievers pulling the skier. Dog skijoring races are often much longer than equestrian skijoring competitions, and they do not involve jumps or slalom courses. The longest dog skijoring race is 270 miles long and is held in Kalevala, Karelia, Russia.

Skijoring is not limited to European competition. The North American Ski Joring Association has held the annual World Ski Joring Competition in Whitefish, Montana for the past five years. At this event, there are a variety of racecourses in which the skier must navigate through gates and jumps, racing the clock for the lowest time. The skier must have the finesse to complete a slalom course as well, and when speeding off of jumps, he has the difficult task of landing the jump without any poles to balance or support himself.

Although there is no official skijoring event at the 2014 Winter Olympics, there is a multitude of other fascinating and little-observed competitions that will occur. So find a TV somewhere around campus, and cheer on the USA as our athletes compete in the snow and cold of Sochi, Russia.

 

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