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Dog skijoring returns to Frisco Nordic Center with 3 beginner clinics

Think your dog would make a good sled dog? How about a good backcountry ski partner? Now's your chance to combine the two.

This January and February, the town of Frisco is offering three introductory skijoring classes in partnership with a certified professional dog trainer, Louisa Morrissey, owner of High Country Dogs. This is a great chance for dogs and their humans to check out the sport of skijoring.

But what exactly is skijoring? Simple enough: It's any time an animal — dog, horse, burro — pulls a human on skis. The Frisco clinics add a furry element to cross-country skiing, as humans ski along while their dogs pull them. The sport originated in Scandinavia several hundred years ago and is quickly gaining popularity in the United States, from dog skijoring in Frisco to horse skijoring competitions in Minturn and Leadville.

"The bond between dog and human companion is often very strong, and in mountain communities like this, folks like to do everything they can in partnership with their dogs," trainer Morrissey said. "These beginner skijoring classes can begin to teach you how to make your dog an active cross-country ski partner and how to have fun while you're doing it."

These beginning skijor classes kick off inside of the Frisco Nordic Center and cover everything a newbie needs to know: proper equipment, dog care, training, places to skijor and more. After the basics, the class then moves outside to practice on the snow.

During this outdoor portion of the class, skiers, dogs and Morrissey will work on teaching dogs to pull, stop and ignore distractions while skijoring with a special harness. This gives attendees the chance to become familiar with handling "lines" for the dog harness. To make things easier on everyone, dogs and owners alike, all human participants must have intermediate cross-country skills.

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Classes are offered three times this season on Saturdays: Jan. 21, Feb. 4 and Feb. 25, from 10 a.m. to noon. Each class is $45, including skijor equipment and a trail pass. The class fee is $30 for Frisco Nordic Center season pass holders. Nordic equipment like skis and boots aren't provided, but all appropriate gear is available for rental at the Nordic center, starting at $15 for youth or seniors and $20 for adults.

Do you need to take all three classes to get the most from the series? Not quite, as each class features the same introductory curriculum, but former students are more than welcome to drop in for additional practice during the on-snow portion of the class. Cost for this is $25 for a trail pass or $15 for pass holders.

For the pups: All dogs must be at least one year old and have proof of vaccination or titer testing. Dogs must also be in good health and peacefully co-exist with other dogs and humans in a group class setting. To register, head online to FriscoNordic.com.

2017 Frisco Dog Skijoring clinics

What: Three beginner-friendly skijoring clinics designed to teach humans and dogs the basics of a burgeoning sport, complete with equipment and on-snow practice time

When: Jan. 21, Feb. 4 and Feb. 25 from 10 a.m. to noon

Where: Frisco Nordic Center, 616 Recreation Way in Frisco

Cost: $30 with season pass, $45 without season pass

The clinics are open to intermediate-level cross-country skiers and well-behaved dogs with a love of running. All skijoring gear is provided. Skis and other equipment are available for rent at the Nordic center. For more information about the clinics or to register, call the center at (970) 668-2558 or see FriscoNordic.com. For questions about any of the skijoring classes, contact trainer Louisa Morrissey at HighCountryDogs@gmail.com or see HighCountryDogs.com.