By Doug Hare EBS Staff
BIG SKY – The sport of skijoring returned to the 320 Guest Ranch for the seventh consecutive year on Feb. 4-5 with 50 teams competing for cash prizes in three sections: open, women’s and sport.
Originating in Norway, skijoring is an increasingly popular sport where skiers are pulled by dogs, horses or motorized vehicles. At the 320 Ranch, skiers were pulled by horse and rider through a 400-yard course as spectators looked on and cheered.
Equine skijoring resembles waterskiing if you squint hard enough. The skier has no poles, only a rope to hang on to as they navigate gates, jumps and other obstacles on short skis, reaching speeds up to 30 miles per hour.
Competitors raced the course twice on both Saturday and Sunday. The best times from each day were then averaged to determine the overall winners in their respective sections.
On Saturday, many teams had trouble navigating a banked gate near the end of the course, causing many skiers to lose their grip on the rope and, as a result, have their times disqualified. Some teams chose to intentionally miss a gate, taking a five second penalty to ensure they had one run that counted towards their overall score. By Sunday afternoon, many teams had figured out the right way to successfully make the final turns without missing a gate or dropping the rope.
It was local Carrie Lee’s third time competing in the event as a skier at the 320 Guest Ranch. “This was my first overall win after lots of second places skijoring. Now I’m on the hunt for a belt buckle,” Lee said.
On-the-fly decision-making, rope management, and staying balanced are allies when you’re trying to go as fast as you can, Lee added. She plans to compete in other Montana skijoring events this winter, one in Wisdom and another in Red Lodge.
Thanks to the 320 Guest Ranch and Skijor International, skijoring has become a welcome winter tradition just south of Big Sky. Combining our state’s strong skiing heritage and cowboy roots, this action-packed event is worth putting on your calendar next time it comes to town.
1st Place: Ebbie Hansen pulling Aaron Griffen
2nd Place: Richard Weber pulling Tyler Smedsrud
3rd Place: Cal Douglas pulling Sayre Smith
1st Place: CR Kunesh pulling Colin Cook
2nd Place: Richard Weber pulling Ryan Griffen
3rd Place: Kristi Herbig pulling Jarid Gibson
1st Place: Kristi Herbig pulling Carrie Lee
2nd Place: Mariah Rys-Sikora pulling Jill McNamara
3rd Place: Krissi Block on Baxter pulling Alex Estes