Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekender: Skijoring Whitefish, MT

Who would've thunk?  The 2012 World Skijoring Championships will be held January 27-29 at the Whitefish Municipal Airport, just east of town, as part of the Whitefish Winter Carnival.  Skijoring, previously addressed in this space, was included as a demonstration sport at the 1928 Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland.  Its Montana debut in the early 1950's was "as part of the Whitefish Carnival script written on a napkin at Hell Roaring Saloon by Norm Kurtz, the manager of Big Mountain." ... "After a few near-disasters when local businessman Russell Street was nearly tossed through the window of The Toggery and a group of runaway horses rushed through a crowd of spectators, the event was moved to Mountain Trails Saddle Club on Wisconsin Ave., which is now the location of Stumptown Ice Den ... Skijoring continued until the mid-1970's when injuries occurring during the event made it uninsurable ... street broom hockey, snowmobile jumps, and the Great Bar to Bar Snowshoe Race were also dropped ..."  It was revived in 2003, and is now the biggest skijoring event in North America.  In 1999 the North American Ski Joring Association (NASJA) was formed to standardize the sport and make it as safe as possible (as safe as cowboy, horse, and skier/snowboarder can be going over jumps at top speed).  NASJA now has a 10-event circuit throughout the western U.S.  Last year 91 teams competed for $25,000 cash in three events: Novice, Sport, and Open.  "A Long Jump Competition is held at the end of the Open competition each day ..."  The public is invited to everything, including the Registration Party (with videos from prior competitions) held at the Black Star Draught House from 6-9 pm on Friday.