Skijordue combines Canadian cowboy and European mountain cultures
CALGARY -- What do you get when you tether a skier or snowboarder to a galloping horse going upward of 60 kilometres an hour? The sport of skijoring.
The sport has been popular in Nordic countries for more than a century and Skijor Canada was formed in 2017 to support its safe, consistent development on a national level in this country, with a goal of forming a race circuit, culminating in a Canadian Championship event in Calgary.
But organizers of the now-annual skijordue event have taken the sport one step further.
It began in 2016 as a private party combining cowboys and snow riders with fondue in an aprés-ski atmosphere.
"One of the most fun things about this sport and this event is bringing together two groups of people that don’t normally intersect and you realize they’re all the same kind of crazy and they just love it,” said organizer Sam Mitchell.
In its first year, the entry fee was cheese and a dozen friends were invited but word spread and 65 showed up.
Within a year, skijordue developed into a competitive charity event, blending Canadian cowboy and European mountain cultures.
Kirk Prescott grew up riding horses and enjoys skiing. For skijordue, he prefers the exhilaration he gets on the back of the horse pulling a skier or snowboarder and sees continued growth for the sport.
"Just that community of horses riders and skiers, bringing that cowboy culture together with our mountain culture here in Alberta, the farther we can take it the better, there’s no end to this I don’t think," said Prescott.
In 2019 the event hosted 2,300 spectators and 100 teams from across Canada and the U.S. and gained international exposure.
Ryan Kennedy usually pulls her dad around the various courses laid out for the competition and says it’s a fun winter spectator sport.
"We’re very lucky to live in the country and ride horses every day and people that don’t get to do that get an opportunity to share that with us," she said. "So it’s really fun seeing people have fun at an event where they’re not riding or not skiing and they’re just spectators."
Over the last three years the event has raised more than $10,000 for Prairie Sky Equine Assisted Therapy, a charity that provides customized, transformational and life-changing programs to individuals facing a range of physical, emotional and social challenges.
Skijordue showcases local businesses, artisan products and attracts a unique crowd of enthusiastic participants, volunteers, sponsors and spectators.