Wintervention brings skijoring — yes, skiing behind a horse — to Crowsnest Pass

Skijoring: a sport for anyone who loves horses and thinks skiing down a mountain is just too mainstream.

Skiers weave between markers, over jumps while horses drag them through the course at the end of rope

Cash prizes, trophies and bragging rights 0:45

It sounds like an idea dreamt up by someone late at night after they maybe had one too many, but skijoring — skiing through an obstacle course while being pulled by a horse — is a real thing. And thanks to Wintervention, it's come to Alberta's Crowsnest Pass.

Skijoring debuted Saturday afternoon as part of the town's annual Wintervention festival as a fun way to help break up the long winter months. 
The course was one lap of the corral, which included three jumps and markers skiers had to weave through. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

Joe Trotz is president of the Kananaskis Rodeo Association and part of the team that helped organize the skijoring event. 

"I guess a couple of us saw it on TV or somewhere and we thought, 'Jeez, boy, wouldn't that be a fun thing to do in the Crowsnest Pass,'" he told CBC News.

Elsewhere in the world, skijoring has been done with horses or teams of dogs, and the word is derived from a Norweigian term meaning ski driving.

In most cases, skijoring is done in a more relaxed setting, not on an extreme sport obstacle race course. 
Joe Trotz, right, took part in the event as a rider Saturday afternoon with Handy, left. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

The rodeo association tried to get skijoring on the docket last year, but there wasn't enough snow or time to get it going. Conditions this year, however, lent themselves to the event. 

Riders looped a rope around the saddle of their horses, which ran the inside loop of the corral.

The other end of the rope was gripped by the skier, hanging on for dear life. 
Skiers were penalized for missing markers on the course, missing jumps, or if the they or the horse went outside the course lines. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

As if holding on to the rope wasn't hard enough, skiers also had to weave their way through a series of markers and hit three jumps of varying size. 

The event is timed and penalties are awarded if markers or jumps are missed, or if the horse or skier go outside their demarcated course. 
There was also a best costume prize for participants. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

Teyel Strandquist participated in the event as a skier with her aunt, Pam Hughes, and her horse, Roger. 

Strandquist said they had a chance to practice last week but conditions were slushy, making it very difficult both on the skiers and the horses.

With slightly lower temperatures Saturday, the skis were able to get a better grip. 
Even the horses got in the spirit for the event. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

After her first run, Strandquist, a former ski racer and instructor, said she had no regrets about signing up, but she had panicked a bit while waiting in the chute to get going.

"It seems like a good idea until you're standing there at the gate," she laughed. 
Helmets were required apparel for skiers taking part in the event. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

Being a new event, participants were still picking up the strategy to scoring a good time. 

Strandquist, for example, opted out of the third and largest jump on the course and netted a one-second penalty, perhaps worth it after seeing two others wipe out on the same jump. 
While the afternoon went relatively smoothly a few skiers did take a tumble and emergency responders were onsite just in case anything more serious arose. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

First responders were on scene in case anyone suffered something more serious than bumps and bruises, but as the announcer said, those who took a tumble were "cowboy tough" and they were on their feet again soon after. 

While it did seem that participants were having a lot of fun at the event, it wasn't for fun alone.

Cash prizes, as well as trophies and bragging rights, were also up for grabs. 
Participants had the chance to practice for the event briefly last weekend but conditions were much different on Saturday afternoon. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

And the winners are...

Garet Drake and Ryan Linderman were the grand champions this year, taking $983 in prize money. Cooper Trotz and Shane Trotz came in second and Joe Trotz and Shane Trotz came in third.

In the second division, Dixie Edge and Chance Bohmer came out on top walking away with $655 in cash. Chance Bohmer and Sam Edge were a close second and Jesse Loree and Alex Redford took third place.

About the Author

Sarah Lawrynuik is a freelance journalist based in Calgary who has covered news stories in Canada and around the world, including in France, Hungary, Ukraine and Iraq. She has worked for CBC in Halifax, Winnipeg and Calgary. She is the 2019/2020 Gordon Sinclair Roving Reporter, bringing stories from Eastern Europe back to Canada.