The colorful falling leaves and crisp bite in the night air have us all excited for one thing: Skijoring. Wait, what?!
It sounds like someone with a hangover mumbling over their words, but it is an actual sport that even has worldwide competitions. Derived from the Norwegian word meaning "ski driving," skijoring involves having a skier pulled by a horse or dog (or two). According to E. John B. Allen in "The Culture and Sport of Skiing," it originated as a form of winter travel in the 19th century to speed up army dispatches. It progressed to sport and competition of different varieties. And yes, it's still skijoring if you are pulled by a snowmobile or quad.
Equestrian skijoring typically includes a rider guiding the horse, with the skier holding the rope by hand. Competitions involve slalom gates, 'jousting rings' that a skier must grab, and 2-6 foot ramp-like jumps. Competitions are hosted in Canada, Sweden, Norway and even the U.S. The World Skijoring Championships are held in Whitefish, Mont., at the annual Whitefish Winter Carnival. The event to watch is "Murdoch's Long Jump," in which the skier is hucked off a 10-foot jump utilizing a "crack-the-whip" effect for maximum distance. For dog skijoring, the skier and dog are attached at their harnesses by a rope at least 1.5 meters (8 feet) long, including a bungee for shock absorption. There are no reins or signaling devices other than your voice to communicate with the dog—typically dog sled commands. People can use a classic or skate skiing technique, though the racers are exclusively skate. Purebred Northern breed dogs like the Siberian Husky are well equipped for skijoring, but other breeds are perfectly suitable too. If you have a healthy, medium size dog that loves to run and is always pulling on its leash, then you might consider hitting the store for a dogsled harness for your pooch. Shout out to RuffWear for designing an entire system for dog-pulling activities. The professionals recommend novices start out on foot, so you don't end up flossing tree bark from your teeth while your pup gets the hang of it. If you do get a knack for it and want to race, you will need a highly disciplined dog that won't want to give kisses to the team you are trying to pass at the finish line.
The Pacific Sled Dog and Skijor Association is a great resource for those wanting to learn how to skijor, providing info on harness training and voice commands and solid beta for Central Oregon trails. Remember, not all trails are open to dogs. Be mindful out there, people; don't adventure where your dog is prohibited.