Annual skijoring event draws thousands to Whitefish


Annual skijoring event draws thousands to Whitefish

KALISPELL, Mont. - It's an event that draws thousands to Whitefish every year, the annual winter skijoring championships.

It's a sport where skiers are pulled by a horse around a race course, they get timed and ranked.

"Skijoring started out, it was a bet between who had the fastest skis, who had the fastest horse and who could drink as much beer and they just kind of turned it all into one event," said skijoring competitor, Brandon Hightower.

That's how Hightower says skijoring was born. It's now a global sport, that boasts the Flathead Valley as its home base.

"You'll see people that are just new to skiing and they're just wanting to go out and have an adventure and ski behind a horse or you've got people that have a racing background and they grew up on a pair of skis, so you can see the whole gambit of it," Hightower said.

Competitiors like Hightower have been doing it for years, and they say it's a great Montana tradition.

"It's fun and its part of Montana and I grew up watching my step dad do it and he showed me a few things and I just like being out in the atmosphere and the people and getting to say ‘yee-haw' and have a beer at the end of the day," said Hightower.

Skiers and riders compete in different classes and they have to weave in and out of poles as they head over jumps.

We're told most of these skiers work hard to prepare for this day.

"We've been able to train the last couple of Sundays and we got skiers and riders to turn out and that's where the teams really start to meet up," Hightower said.

"It definitely helps to go to some ski conditioning classes if you can find them somewhere because these are 5 foot plus jumps and it's good to have solid legs underneath you," said Bart Slaney.

Slaney, another skier competing, has been racing for four years. He says it's the excitement that brings him back every year.

"You still get the jitters a little bit just because it's an adrenaline rush and you know there's so many uncontrollable things that can happen and it's just fun," Slaney said.

The event is also a fundraiser. The money people paid for parking will be donated to an organization called Human Therapy on Horseback.

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