Going For a Ride

Got a big canine? This winter, train them in skijoring, a popular Scandinavian sport in which your dog pulls you along on cross-country skis.

A lady and the best dog on earth, skijoring.
Photo by Ben Young

If you’ve ever been curious about sled-dog racing but don’t want to shell out the roughly $100,000 it costs to support a kennel of huskies year-round, good news: There’s another, far less costly sport you can try with your canine companions during the snowy months. Skijoring, which has existed in various forms around the world for centuries, involves one or more dogs pulling a rider on cross-country skis by an elastic cord attached to a harness. The pastime is popular in Scandinavia and the upper Midwest—Minnesota and Wisconsin, particularly—and is gaining notice in Colorado, thanks in part to advocates like Louisa Morrissey, who runs a dog-coaching center called High Country Dogs in Glenwood Springs.

Linda Schutt and Louisa Morrissey with the best dogs - Neewa, Linus, Lucy, and Kirby.
Photo by Paul Schutt

Morrissey, a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA), has been skijoring for 20 years and teaching the sport for 15. For those who want to get involved, there’s only one requirement, she says, other than owning a suitable dog: “It’s important that you’re comfortable on cross-country skis. You don’t need to be super-fast or super-advanced, but you do need to be comfortable with gliding and stopping.” As for dog requirements, it’s pretty flexible; most pups, so long as they’re in good health, can participate to some degree. “Traditionally, it’s been any dog over 30 pounds,” she notes, “but I’ve had Pomeranians in class. In that case, the human was probably doing 90 percent of the work, and the dog was just out running the track.” However the work is divided, the enjoyment—for owner and dog—is usually the same.

High Country Dogs
Glenwood Springs
970.406.0158