Ski joring takes off in Minturn
MINTURN, Colorado – Ski joring is not complicated.
“If you follow your horse, you’re fine. If you don’t, not much that’s good is going to happen,” said Bruce Stott, taking a quick break from building the course for this weekend’s Rocky Mountain ski joring event in Minturn.
Competitors will come to Minturn from all over the Rocky Mountain West to follow their horses and other uncomplicated instructions.
Ski joring works like this. Skiers hold a rope with one hand and a wand in the other. The rope is attached to an extremely enthusiastic horse.
As the horse careens up the street through the snow – and they have plenty of snow – the skier is pulled along at speeds that call into question his or her sense of self-preservation.
The skier weaves back and forth across the street using the wand to grab rings, while flying 40 or 50 feet over jumps. This is an American sport, so the fastest skier with the most rings wins.
They repeat this at least twice.
“Anything can happen. You have three different personalities, three minds working together,” said Sherry Graham, patiently explaining that the three personalities are the horse, rider and skier.
If they’re not all on the same track, something spectacular is gonna happen, in a NASCAR crash-that-you-can’t-stop-watching kind of way.
They’re serious about it, and some of them compete professionally. But they have to travel to some of the West’s more far-flung places. Whitefish, Mont., is a regular tour stop. They were in Silverton last week. Two weeks from now will see them roll to Red Lodge, Mont. Leadville is next week.
“The people who travel train hard,” Graham said. “You have to take it seriously if you’re going to travel 20 hours one way. You need to be in shape.”
Locals like Graham, Stott and Rose Bearden introduced ski joring to the East Coast and it’s gotten huge out there. They’ve been known to travel all the way to upstate New York.
“The Leadville event is still the granddaddy of ski joring,” Bearden said, who’s helping put the Minturn event together. “With other races being added all over the USA, this year we are bringing ski joring to Minturn.”
Legend has it ski joring was started in Leadville back in 1949 by two guys who were sitting in a cafe drinking a cup of coffee and eating a pie.
The local ski joring folks were determined to get more events in the area, and thought about Minturn. They approached the town staff, who agreed to move forward with the event, said Michelle Metteer, Minturn’s event coordinator.
And so, this weekend, they are.
And they’re a welcoming lot. They love ski joring and want you to love it, too.
If you’re polite, they might let you qualify behind a snowmobile to see if you can stand up. If you can, they might let you take a ride behind one of their horses.
Of course, they’re taking all the safety precautions. The ambulance and fire departments will be there to handle any near-disasters.
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