Skijoring: it’s a sport

Caroline Knight, Features Editor

Winter is upon Durango, and with it all the activities one can expect; ice skating, sledding, and of course, skiing are high on the list this year, but if locals are looking to spice up their winter routine, Silverton offers just the thing. Enter the mountain town’s annual skijoring competition, in which a skier is pulled by horse (or dog) through a timed obstacle course.

“The skijoring event in Silverton is very hectic and exciting. There are a lot of wipeouts but the racers went a lot faster than I expected, it was really exciting and exhilarating to watch,” said So. Logan Fullington.

While skijoring is an excellent spectator sport, for some it’s much more than that. One such person is Savannah McCarthy, a junior at Aztec High School, and the 2016 Skijoring America Southern National Champion Rider. McCarthy has been riding and working with horses since she can remember, and started skijoring competitively when she was twelve.

“I definitely enjoy the adrenaline and how it’s something different, it’s not a sport lots of people know of or compete in. I also think with the the success that we’ve had it’s been able to really strengthen my bond with my horses. I try to ride as often as I can even when it’s not skijoring season,” said McCarthy.

Those who’ve followed skijoring have watched it’s evolution from a casual competition to a sport that attracts serious athletes.

“I’ve been in skijoring for thirty five years. I got started in the fairgrounds in Durango, and it was really neat because they just had little race tracks there. Back then we just had three hay bales, and those were our our big bad jumps, and now we’re looking at 7 foot jumps, so that’s how much we’ve evolved over the last thirty five years. The most appealing part about this is it’s a sport, it’s competitive, the guys who do it are world class skiers,” said Tim McCarthy, father of Savannah McCarthy.

For competitors, prep is important, especially for their horses.

“Ninety days before the racing season, we have days of good speed and getting [the horses’] air built up, because a big part about the races is getting fit. We have an oxygen mask that we give to our horses before and after the race and all the horses exercise a few times a week to get their air built up,” said McCarthy.

As teams are training their horses, volunteers for the Silverton competition are working tirelessly through the year to make sure everything runs smoothly.

“We pretty much start again as soon as each event is over…there are about seven of us that do the majority of the planning work and we probably spend a couple hundred hours planning and running the event,” said Laura Des Palmes, who started volunteering for the event a year after it started in 2008.

What started as an event with close to 300 spectators in attendance saw well over 2,500 at the 2016 competition, with an even bigger growth expected in 2017.

“It [skijoring] is super fun because anyone who’s anyone in Silverton is there and everyone is pretty hyped and the better seats you get the better it is. It’s kind of cool because it looks doable but at the same time it’s just super different from what we’re used to,” said. Jr. Corbin Reiter.

This year, Silverton’s 8th skijoring competition will take place at high noon on February 18th and 19th. Volunteers over the age of 16 are welcome, and free t-shirts are included.

Sidebar: This year, Silverton’s annual skijoring competition will take place at high noon on February 18th and 19th.