When was the last time you tried a new activity?
For me, it was over Presidents’ Day Weekend in Washington’s Methow Valley. This cross-country skiing mecca boasts miles of groomed trails, drawing classic and skate ski aficionados in search of good snow (a rarity west of the mountains, where we often settle for “Cascade concrete”.)
I’ve skated in the Methow (pronounced MET-how) area before, but this year, some friends of mine brought along their two huskies and asked if I’d like to try skiing with a little canine assistance. Never one to pass on a chance to try something new, I clipped into the waist belt and gave skijoring a go.
Derived from the Norwegian word skikjøring, meaning “ski driving,” skijoring is a winter sport in which a cross-country skier is pulled by a dog, (or dogs), a horse or even a motor vehicle. In the canine version, dog and skier wear harnesses and are connected by a rope about 10 feet long. Dogs basically boost the skiing power, so both human and dog get a workout. The sport has been popular in Scandinavia, Alaska and the Midwest for years, and over the last decade or so has been catching on across much of the lower 48.
(Ok, I’m sure many of you did. But I, not being a dog owner, and not quite able to picture my cats romping in the snow, much less pulling anything except a mouse-on-a-string across the floor, did not.)
So how was it to be tethered to a big dog, not knowing whether I’d be taken for a drag across the snow? I had a blast! Luckily for me, my dog had a leisurely attitude toward running and pulling, so I was in good hands (paws?) We did see some experienced skiers with their dogs, and they made it look very slick and fast and fun. But our mellow trot was just fine for my first try.
The weekend doggie fun didn’t end there. The next day, the town of Winthrop held its annual Doggie Dash. Billed as “a six-legged ski race for humans and their best canine friends”, the event was not so much a competition as it was an excuse to dress up.
Oh, the spectacle! Dogs in dresses! Kids in clown suits! Men in tights! (Wait, skate skiers always wear tights.) Anyway, costumed competitors flocked to the starting line with all variety of canine companions, ready to race around the track. Some were equipped with skijoring harnesses around their waists, but most held on to leashes.
There was Bald Eagle Man with striped tights and a striped dog, Zebra Tights Man with, um, zebra tights, and Miniskirt Guy with no tights at all, along with his pug dressed as a frog.
Then we had Elvis, Hawaiian Shirt Guy and Dalmatian Boy with his pup dressed as a fireman. And who could forget the wedding party: two tall guys in long pink dresses and wigs, accompanied by their giant Newfoundland bridesmaids in tutus.
Prizes were awarded , and all proceeds went to area dogs and cats in need.
Learn more about the Doggie Dash, dog-friendly trails and cross-country skiing around Winthrop from the Methow Valley Ski Trails Association.
Have you been skijoring? Tell us your dogs-in-the-snow stories!