The Q and A of Leadville Ski Joring
What do you get when you put a skier, a horse (with rider) and speed together? Leadville Ski Joring! And for those of you who have never seen a Ski Joring competition, and even for those of you who have, you’ve got questions about this one-of-a-kind event, and Leadville Today has the answers!
So when will the races actually start?
Generally speaking, the actual racing begins just after 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. In the morning, entertainment is by way of the Calcutta Auction. See the Ski Joring Poster HERE.
Why do both days start with people taking bets on the horses?
What you’re watching is called the Calcutta Auction: it’s where bets are placed on the horse-skier teams. Every horse-skier team is auctioned to the highest bidder, creating a pool of money. (Skiers are randomly matched up with different horses for each run, so there are far more horse-skier teams than there are skiers.) The bettors who wager on the top three teams win 50 percent, 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively. (That is, after the Leadville Ski Joring Committee takes a modest cut to pay next year’s expenses.)
How many teams are there?
Anywhere from 30 to 65 teams will register for the competition, with three divisions: kids class (using snowmobiles to pull them), sport class and open class. First time competitors get a chance to prove themselves in the sport class, and if they qualify they can go on to the rowdy open class, with the big dogs (er, horses). But the sport class is more than enough for many.
What is the Legends Division?
In recent years, organizers have opened up a fourth class of ski jorers, called the “Legends” division. This one is for the former Ski Joring champions who’ve decided to tone it down in later years but still have what it takes. They compete on the sport course, but since they’d likely beat everyone else in it, they compete among themselves. This is a great way to see some true legends like Jason Dahl and Chris Anthony making things look easy.
What’s the rider’s job?
Well, besides keeping the horse under control, riders have some obstacles of their own, navigating the course smoothly for the skier in tow. Skiers try spearing rings that hang down by magnets over the course – while staying in control. It requires some teamwork from both parties to get the skier to the right spot.
Is the winner the fastest skier or the skier who takes the most rings?
The winner is the fastest skier. But mistakes such as dropping a ring, dropping a baton, missing a gate or missing a jump will all result in 2 seconds being taken off a skier’s time. In a race where the winner might ski the course in under 16 seconds, a dropped ring can be a big deal.
Is Leadville Ski Joring sanctioned by North American Ski Joring Association?
It isn’t. According to event organizers, North American Ski Joring Association requirements are virtually impossible to comply with as long as the event is held on Harrison Ave. However, not being sanctioned hasn’t seemed to affect the event’s popularity.
Can I ski in the event?
Sure. Anyone with a set of alpine skis can enter the sport class. (Only people with a qualifying time from another race or the Leadville practice course can enter the open class.) The sport class has smaller jumps and slower horses than the open class.Registration is on Saturday and Sunday morning from 8 – 10:30 at The Elks Lodge 123 W. 5th Street in Leadville.
How do I find a horse to ski with?
All skiers and horses are put into a pool and randomly matched up. (There is one exception: horses and skiers who want to race with each other are guaranteed one race together.)
Why are dogs prohibited from the event?
Loose dogs used to cut across Harrison Avenue in front of the horses, creating a hazard for the riders, skiers, horses-and the dogs themselves. Therefore, Leadville Ski Joring is a DOG-FREE Event – owners who bring their dogs downtown will be ticketed.
Why aren’t there any snowboarders or telemark skiers?
According to event organizers, the course isn’t set up for snow enthusiasts with any equipment other than alpine skis. More importantly, the rules prohibit anything but alpine skis.
How can I find out who won?
During the race, times will be announced over the intercom system. After the race, competitors and spectators head down to the Elks Lodge, where the official printout is compiled and handed out to everybody. The Elks Lodge is at 123 W 5th Street. But, Leadville Ski Joring has a Facebook page which will be reporting and posting results, photos and video live as they happen. This is also a GREAT PLACE for folks to share their pictures and experience. They don’t call it social media for nothing!
So be sure to enjoy your time in Leadville. Ski Joring doesn’t happen anywhere else in Colorado on an annual basis, only in Leadville! There’s not another place in the country that closes off their main street (a state highway, no less!), either. So if you’re looking for a sporting adventure that takes skiers, pulled behind horses (with riders) barreling down the streets of a true “Old West” town to take on majestic jumps, then you’ve come to the right place. It’s sure to make you say, “that’s crazy!”