A fresh blanket of snow. A pair of skis. Now all you need is man’s best friend. Welcome to the newly trendy sport of skijoring. For the uninitiated, skijoring is a cold-weather sport that involves being attached to your dog—or horse, if you prefer—by a towline and taking to the trails together for an invigorating workout. As Rover runs ahead, you follow at a similar pace on skis. Some liken the sensation to waterskiing through snow.
The sport, which traces its roots to 19th-century Scandinavia, gives you “the thrill of dog sledding without having to own a team of dogs,” explains Seth Sachson, executive director of the Aspen Animal Shelter. Plus, you’ll get a better workout. What’s the difference between a run with your dog, and skijoring? The former involves parallel play, says Sachson. Skijoring requires teamwork.
Beginners often start with cross-country skis, but avid skijorers use skate skis. “It’s a fun way to bond with your dog, and at its most beautiful it can be poetry in motion,” says Sachson, an avid skijorer, teacher, and proponent of both canines and fitness. Competitions are catching on around the world, and, according to Sachson, “When you attend a race or see a great skijorer, it’s like watching a perfect crew boat out on the water. There is a synchronicity of rhythm that is stunning.”
While breeds like huskies, hounds, and pointers often make great skijoring pets, smaller dogs can get in on the action, too. (The minimum recommended weight is 35 pounds.) The key, according to Sachson, is that your dog be able to stay out in front of you and hold a line. Some pooches are naturals; others just don’t take to it. It also helps if the owner is a proficient skate skier.
The Aspen Animal Shelter offers skijoring lessons, clinics, and equipment for rent or sale. Beyond Nordic skis, equipment needs are minimal: a harness for your pet, a hip belt for you, a towline, and a bungee cord. The bungee allows a bit of give in case your dog likes to rocket out of the gate. Aspen offers plenty of scenic spots for skijoring, from the golf course to the Rio Grande Trail.
“You don’t have to be great to have fun,” Sachson assures. “It can take a while to become a team, but along the way you’re outside in a stunning place, bonding with your pet.”
—By Kate Meyers