If you’re planning on shredding Red Lodge this year, try to make it March 14–15, when the National Finals Ski Joring Races take over town with race events, live music and a carb-loading spaghetti feed.
Wait, ski-what? Unless you’re a Mountain West native, an equine enthusiast or a pure-blood Scandinavian, you’re probably scratching your head wondering how to even say it. Pronounced “skih-JOR-ing” (you’re welcome), this ski-rodeo of sorts sends skiers flying over a snowy obstacle course, hooky-bobbing behind a galloping steed and rider. It’s a spectator sport and if you’d like to try it, we suggest some serious training. Still, sidelining here can raise your adrenaline plenty as racers rocket around the track, catch air, slam gates and fling themselves through a horse-powered long jump that launches them up to 60 feet.
History of Ski Joring
Yes, it sounds like a crazy Montanan invention, but ski joring was borne of Scandinavian practicality. Formerly a popular mode of winter transportation used by Scandinavians several hundred years ago, ski joring only made its way to North America during the mid-twentieth century. The Scandinavians that pioneered the activity strapped themselves onto Nordic skis, grabbed on to a rope attached to the saddle horn of their horse and knocked out their errands.
By the time ski joring made its way to the United States, traveling by horse and skis was no longer an efficient method of transportation. Yet, hitching your ski-bound self to a horse traveling at speeds upwards of 20 miles per hour seemed like fun to a great many individuals (oddly, in states like Montana, Minnesota and Wisconsin) and thus, ski joring as a recreational activity took off.
A Taste of the Event
Ski joring is one of those obscure events that makes a Yellowstone Country trip a true, unique Montana experience (seriously … how many of your friends have pictures of the last ski joring competition they attended? That’s what we thought.). Plus, small-town Red Lodge fairly reverberates during the national event. The whole town seems like it’s one big party—which, by the way, it is—as a normally quiet place suddenly comes to life.
Simply put, there’s nothing like the energy, the buzz or the hospitality that will come out of Red Lodge during the three days of the National Finals. Live music, a town packed with visitors and some good old fashioned Ski Joring are well worth booking your ski trip to coincide with one very different event.