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Colin Cook returns to Best of the West Skijoring Competition

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Colin Cook gets air at the San Juan Skijoring event in Ridgeway, Colorado in Jan. 2022. PHOTO BY DENISE E. JONES

Outlaw Partners and Big Sky Skijoring bring thrill to Big Sky

By Tucker Harris EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Colin Cook told himself he was done with skijoring for good in 2019. 

Cook was the national champion, cashing in over $30,000 in checks in just two months. But after seeing one of his friends and fellow competitors get badly injured at the skijoring championship held in Red Lodge, he decided he wanted to keep his body healthy and intact before heading into hunting and fishing seasons. 

Skijoring, derived from the Norwegian word skikjøring, meaning “ski driving,” is the competitive sport of being pulled on skis by a horse through a course filled with jumps. The fastest trio wins. 

Cook took a brief hiatus from skijoring in 2020 instead trying out gelande—think high-stakes Nordic ski jumping—in Missoula. However, he quickly realized skijoring was not as dangerous as he thought. In his first gelande competition, Cook jumped 183 feet, but crashed, injuring his shoulder and knocking himself out. 

“The whole idea of not wanting to skijor anymore because it was too dangerous was out the window after that,” Cook said.

Cook has returned to the adrenaline rush of skijoring this 2021-22 season and will be competing at Big Sky Skijoring’s Best of the West Competition on Feb. 5 and 6 as part of Big Sky Winter Fest hosted by Outlaw Partners, publisher of Explore Big Sky.

Cook, now 32, grew up ski racing with his older brother in Missoula though he said this eventually led to burnout. 

“It took five to six years until I actually enjoyed skiing again,” Cook admitted. 

Claudia Schmidt pulls Cook through the 2019 Best of the West Skijoring Competition in Big Sky. PHOTO BY SORCHA MATISSE

When he’s not traveling to skijoring competitions, Cook lives in Bozeman and is in the midst of starting his own excavation business, Cook Civil Contracting.

Cook originally decided he wanted to give the fast-paced sport of skijoring a try at age 25 after seeing his brother take up the sport.

“I caught wind of it and tried it,” said Cook “And that was that; the rest is history.” 

Since beginning his skijoring career, Cook has claimed two national titles: once in 2017 and again in 2019. He has competed in, organized and helped design courses for numerous skijoring events across the country. When it comes to course design, Cook is always ready to step up. 

“I generally give my input on every one of [the courses],” Cook said. “I set the gates and design the course wherever it’s needed.” 

Cook will help design the course in Big Sky and has been asked to design the skijoring course in West Yellowstone as well for this season. The two main factors that go into building and designing a course, according to Cook, are snow for the jumps and the safety of the footing for the horse.

“It’s extremely important that the horses’ footing is as perfect as it possibly can be to make sure they’re safe,” Cook said. “And that’s more important than the skier course.”

There has never been a sport or anything in my life that I’ve watched that has made my heart pound like skijoring—ever. It gives me goosebumps, it absolutely fills my soul…I’m so proud to have been here from the start and to have brought it to Big Sky.

– Justa Adams, Big Sky Skijoring organizer

Cook helped put on the first Best of the West Skijoring event in Big Sky in 2018 with the passionate and determined help of Justa Adams; Richard Weber, one of Cook’s go-to riders; and skijoring competitor, Tyler Smedsrud. In just four short weeks, the team miraculously put together the first Big Sky Skijoring event with the tremendous help of the Big Sky community including numerous donors and the Simkins family and Erik Morrison, Big Sky Town Center’s events manager, helping find the right location in Town Center.

“There has never been a sport or anything in my life that I’ve watched that has made my heart pound like skijoring—ever,” Adams said. “It gives me goosebumps, it absolutely fills my soul…I’m so proud to have been here from the start and to have brought it to Big Sky.”

Big Sky Skijoring has continued to be a proven success in its skijoring events over the past few years growing to 130 teams competing at the 2020 Best of the West Competition—the second largest event in the country that year. This year, $15,000 has been added into the winners’ pot that goes directly to the competitors. 

Cook skijors for the thrill. Pulled behind racehorses moving 35-45 mph there is no wonder he returned to the speed and the risk of skijoring. 

But for Cook, it’s more than just the thrill; it’s the people. 

“It’s so eye-opening to everyone, the outsiders, to see how close knit everybody is,” Cook said. “We will bend over backwards for each other to make sure everyone’s safe.”

When it comes down to it, the sport is about the skijoring family,  he said. 

Cook just completed another successful skijoring event in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, raking in more than $19,000, and he’s ready to continue this success closer to home in Big Sky. Watch Cook compete in the heart of Big Sky at the Best of the West Competition Feb. 5 and 6.

Visit outlaw.partners/winterfest for more information and to purchase tickets.

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