Skijoring: A winter sport you probably won’t see in the Olympics
February 11, 2018
Today's column is about skijoring. Surprisingly, this is not a subject that is regularly covered here in Grand County. I say "surprisingly" because we have a solid core of ski enthusiasts and a solid core of dog lovers. You simply take one intermediate skier (preferably of the X-country variety) add one dog that loves to run (think everything from rescues to Huskies), connect the skier to the dog via a harness, throw in a snow-covered trail and you have the potential for poetry in motion, a symphony of enjoyment, otherwise known as skijoring.
Like the sport of dog sledding and snowshoeing, this sport is increasing in popularity with Zoomer Boomers. Unlike these other two winter activities, however, the confluence of a number of variables can have a major impact.
A while back I encountered a man and his dog, both in the eager pursuit of skijoring. I stopped on the X-country ski trail and asked him just how long he and his dog had been practicing. It should be duly noted that I inquired of him in this regard as he was attempting to stand up after having been dragged nose first through the snow for approximately ten yards. His dog was in the process of making a dog's equivalent of a snow angel. He then informed me, while laughing and extricating frozen snow from his nostrils, that they were new to the sport and he was not a very good skier and his dog was not a very good "puller." In skijoring, these two "not very goods" require an above average sense of humor.
My wife, a former member of the U.S. National Ski Team, is an exceptional skier who also possesses an above average sense of humor. A few years ago, she decided that she and Aspen, our young German shepherd, should have a "go" at this activity and accordingly purchased the harness and signed up for a class. Along with a group of about fifteen other "pairs" they answered the basic questions, received the basic instructions, and set out on their great adventure. Although starting at the back, there is nothing this shepherd liked to do more than just run for the sheer sake of catching up and she ran very fast. My wife used the skiing terms "Smok'in," "A riot," and "Hanging on for dear life." Consequently, within a very short time Aspen had caught all the other dogs, passed them and then realized that there were no more "buddies" to chase. As any self-respecting chase dog would do when there were no more targets to chase, she promptly sat down in the middle of the trail. No amount of coaxing, pleading, or begging could alter her decision. As my wife said there was nothing to do but laugh.
On the cusp of these Winter Olympics, I don't think that you will see skijoring as a featured sport. But in the background if you do see a dog run by towing a temporarily upright human with a facial expression that looks like a cross between the best joke you ever heard and the coming to grips with their own mortality, then know that you have just witnessed a right proper skijoring.
Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching as an adjunct business school professor, authoring noted business and sports columns, and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth. He can be contacted at email@example.com.