BIG SKY - In Montana, there’s certainly no shortage of fun winter activities. But one might just take the cake in terms of entertainment and sheer craziness: skijoring.
The sport, whose name came from the Norwegian word skikjøring or “ski driving,” is a vigorous winter sport in which a skier is pulled by a horse, dog, or vehicle. The fastest pair to make it across the course, often filled with ramps and sharp turns, wins. Sunday’s competition utilized horses and riders to pull skiers over the snow.
Despite facing subzero temperatures early Sunday, a huge crowd showed up in Big Sky for the Big Sky Skijoring competition. And if you thought those low temperatures would chill spectators’ spirits, you’d be wrong.
“It’s fun to scream in the middle of winter,” says BB Webb, an Atlanta-native now living in chilly Bozeman, who traveled down to Big Sky just for the event. “It just keeps you warm!”
The event pulled in long-time fans and first-timers. Spectator Luke Mawhinney has made a habit of going to skijoring competitions over the last ten years, whether to support a friend like at Sunday's race or for his own personal enjoyment. But it was Webb’s friend Patrick Richard, a Big Sky resident, who convinced her to go to Sunday’s event; it was her first time seeing the sport.
And whether they were standing by fire pits, swigging warm drinks, competing in the event's spectator dance competition, or simply bundling up, skijoring fans found ways to keep going despite the cold. Richard and Webb say they were wearing warmers in their shoes and about “18,000 layers” to keep warm over the course of the day.
While the sport certainly requires talent, some spectators say it’s also just fun to watch people on skis being pulled by a horse at high speed.
“Just the horses and the people, you know?” says Malwhinney, when asked what the appeal of the sport is for him. “Those big animals towing people. It’s really, really fun to watch.”