HELENA — If there was ever a sport made specifically for Montana, it’s skijoring.
“It’s just a lot of raw horsepower and straight sking ability,” said skijoring national champion C.R. Kunesh. “You got to be able to stay on behind something that’s going Mach 10 down through there and work your rope.”
Skijoring combines the Treasure State specialists of skiing and horseback riding into one adrenaline fueled sport.
“Skijoring originated quite a long time ago, probably in the Norwegian countries and is pretty much been pulled by anything on skis. Here in our western style we use horses, mainly quarter horses because they’re fast,” added pro circuit champ Ebbie Hansen. “But in other countries they use caribou or whatever is handy and they have trained to pull.”
“Just like a rodeo or barrel race or anything like that,” said Kunesh. “It’s got electric eyes that start it. Electric eyes that finish it. And it’s all just however fast you can get through the course without getting any penalties and missing jumps. You just never know what’s going to happen. If you enjoy skiing and fast horses it’s just raw excitement. There is nothing better. You sit there and watch these guys go Mach 10 down through here and put on a pretty special display of skiing and horsemanship. You just never know what you’re going to see. It is something, just a whole new world for skiers. It’s something they have never done before.”
So, me being the man I am; and always looking for an excuse to miss actual work, I asked Hansen to show me the ropes with a little help from her championship horse Zeek The Streak.
“I’d say keep the rope tight and bend the knees good, you know, get that good old basketball stance going on a little bit and you should be good to go,” Hansen advised.
She knows what she’s talking about, because after a slow and terrifying start, I got my ski legs and was tearing up the course like a grizzled vet.
Don’t be surprised if the next time you see me, it’s holding a trophy on the pro circuit.
For more on skijoring, visit Montana Sports.
Reporting by Andy Curtis for Montana Sports