The year was 1949 in Leadville, Colorado. Two rapscallion friends, Tom Schroeder and Mugs Ossman, conspired to create a new and unusual racing event, which was to take place during their winter Crystal Carnival. One suggestion was to up the ante by combining the pedestrian sport of skiing with a galloping horse. They met at the Ossman ranch for a trial run in knee deep snow, and Ski Joring in Leadville was born (Leadville breaks it up into two words, not one).
What is Ski Joring? It is a competition where a horse and rider pull a skier at a fast pace through a course that has gates, jumps, and rings. The skier is timed through the course where penalties are assessed by missing gates or jumps and by missing or dropping any of the rings (2 seconds per ring). Teams are made up by a random draw before the start of the race, competing for a cash prize. Ski Joring in Leadville is always the first full weekend in March.
It’s unclear where skijoring originated, however, it is believed that it began as a means of winter travel. It has evolved into a competitive sport and was even a demonstration sport in the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Skijoring today can be found in a couple of small mountain towns, after all they can’t practice this in Texas! It is a melding of two cultures, the redneck cowboy and the outdoor, high altitude athlete.
Leadville begins their 2 day prep by gathering fresh snow by the dump truck load. One hundred and twenty to be exact! They create a track right down Harrison Ave, or Highway 24 on the map, which is the length of 2 1/2 football fields. The course consists of a couple of jumps and the capture of 6 hanging rings with a jousting stick. It might sound easy, but the skier is being pulled 35-40 mph behind a 1000 pound horse and a lot can go wrong in the 16-18 second run.
Why would a skier and/or cowboy do this? Because it is an adrenaline junkies sport, of course!
LEADVILLE SKI JORING 2017