Skijoring: What You Get When You Cross Rodeo With Skiing

If you enjoy the rodeo but can’t decide between that and skiing, you’re in luck. Welcome to skijoring — an extreme (and quirky) winter sport that celebrates the unlikely melding of rodeo and ski culture in Colorado. It’s a heart-pumping, white-knuckle competition in which horses — and sometimes dogs, snowmobiles, and even cars — tow skiers by rope at speeds that can top 40mph over jumps as high as 8 feet and around obstcales as they try to lance suspended hoops with a baton, typically a ski pole that’s been cut in half. Every winter, thousands of people converge on the old mining town of Leadville, Colo., high in the Rocky Mountains — elevation 10,158 feet — lining downtown’s main street and packing the saloons to witness one of the most popular skijoring races in the country. The spectacle — billed as “The Granddaddy of ‘Em All” — has been a tradition there since 1949. Skijoring draws its name from the Norwegian word skikjoring, meaning “ski driving.” It started as a practical mode of transportation in Scandinavia and became popular in the Alps around 1900. Despite its growing popularity, getting the sport into the Olympics has proved challenging. There is no official governing body, no uniform set of rules and regulations, and no point system that would allow riders to advance to the Winter Games.