Ski Joring: Giddy-Up to Leadville March 3 & 4
Colorado is known around the world for its outdoor winter recreation: skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, hockey, ice fishing. But when it comes to the boisterous sport of ski joring, Leadville sits tall in the saddle at 10,200 feet with a race course that is surrounded by some of the state’s most notable historic buildings, not to mention Colorado’s two highest peaks.
This year marks the 70th Anniversary of Leadville Ski Joring, an event that combines horses and riders with skiers in an action-packed competition that takes place on historic Harrison Avenue. Held the first weekend in March, the celebration will take place this Saturday & Sunday, March 3 & 4, 2018.
For those who have never witnessed this sport in person, there’ s nothing quite like seeing skiers hurtle 8 foot jumps and spear rings as they’re towed behind speeding horses with adrenaline-fueled riders at the reins.
While the sport of Ski Joring continues to grow across the country and around the world, it’s roots are firmly planted in Leadville Ski Joring. Starting out in the fields at the old Ossman Ranch, the sport quickly grew into a race format in the 1950s and by the 1990s had evolved into the adrenaline-fueled sport spectators can see this weekend. The crowds will be thick, as fans can’t seem to get enough of this Wild West Show, from the thrills and chills, to the spills!
However, this year, you may notice a few changes. But would it really be Leadville Ski Joring without some changes, unexpected obstacles and cowboys butting heads over rules and registration? Nope! So, here’s the Leadville Today LSJ report about what to expect with this year’s competition.
Tim McCarthy and his daughter Savannah will not be back in Leadville to make a run at the LSJ Championship, a title this young horsewoman has claimed for the past five years. Savannah is a local favorite and fans have pretty much seen her grow up on Harrison Avenue as this young girl has become an accomplished horsewoman who is getting ready to graduate from high school this spring. Unfortunately, legal issues surrounding a drone incident at last year’s Silverton competition has this student athlete from northern New Mexico sidelined for the season. Leadville will miss seeing you Savannah. And oh yes, LSJ will miss her Dad Tim as well – he’s a great showman and passionate advocate for the sport! – but this weekend’s event will definitely miss those horses they bring with them each year!
LSJ spectators will also note the absence of another favorite LSJ competitor. Sadly Red Lodge, Jeff Dahl’s beloved four-hoofed friend and ski joring partner went to that great stable in the sky earlier this year. Most locals probably have a picture with Red Lodge; he was a great show horse and a crowd favorite. He was the kind of horse who could do the crowd-pleasing tricks and then hit that mark ever time, blazing down the avenue with his owner Jeff sitting tall in the saddle!
And then there’s Dana Stiles’ white lightening horse and ski joring veteran Merlin. His stark white coat gives him that angelic nature, but he could often be captured in photos, rising up for the money shot, right before he showed off his magnificence on the course. Merlin is a LSJ Champion many times over. But a good horse owner knows when enough is enough. And so it went for Merlin, who made his last run at last year’s LSJ competition.
So with those variables in mind, LSJ organizers had to make horse sense of this year’s competition. They had to figure out a way to continue to grow the sport, to bring in younger competitors, while facing a bit of a shortage on the hoofed end. And so, a new division was born! Welcome the LSJ Snowmobile Division!
Now keep in mind, while every skier wants to experience the glory of blazing down Harrison Avenue, being pulled by a thoroughbred to the cheers of the crowds, most newbies need a bit more practice. And there’s nothing wrong with that, practice makes perfect. But as for the horses, they are making a full run down the avenue, whether the skier made it past the first jump or barely out of the starting gate. So this new division is for you. Sign up for $35 and get a run at the course at 32 mph behind a snowmobile. See how difficult it is to scoop up those rings and hit those gates. In other words, prove yourself. Then come back and do it behind a horse.
With the new division, there will be a shift in the line-up as well. The new race order is designed to keep the track in the best shape for safety, especially for the horses. Saturday and Sunday’s competition will both open at high noon with the Legends Division. These are the veteran racers, albeit a bit older but they still know how to put on a good show. Next up will be the the Sport Division, then Open Division (these are the BIG jumps), and then finally the new Snowmobile Division. For COMPLETE RULES, check the LeadvilleSkiJoring.us website.
Once you decide what division you fall into, then it’s time for registration, which has also seen some changes this year. There will be NO Pre Registration for the 2018 Event and also no DAY-Of-EVENT registration. If you want to compete, be at the Leadville Elks Lodge at 123 W. 5th Street on Friday night, March 2 from 6 – 8 p.m. to register for Saturday’s ski joring. Then if you want to compete on Sunday, you have to register on Saturday night, March 3 (after the awards ceremony) from 6 – 8 p.m. NO EXCEPTIONS! Questions? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, once the qualification, registration process and draw for teams is complete, then spectators should see the Calcutta take place at the Announcer’s Stand on Harrison Avenue starting at 9:30 a.m. both days. This is where the money for daily purses and seed funds for next year’s competition is generated. The public – especially the high rollers – are invited to join in the bidding fun with a chance to win some BIG money if your team wins!
On Saturday, March 3, after the newly added Snowmobile Division is over, the Ski Joring Kids Event will take place. Any child who wishes to do ONE Fun Run down the course, may line up at the START at 3 p.m. on Saturday (only), March 3. Each child will receive a 50-cent piece for taking on the challenge!
So that’s what news with Leadville Ski Joring this year. Town should be packed with spectators and competitors, but please leave your pooches at home, as ski joring is dog-free downtown event! The Leadville Today team will be out capturing all the action, but you may also share your pictures on the Leadville Today Facebook Page. #GiddyUp – it’s Leadville Ski Joring weekend!
Stay Tuned to Leadville Today as we roll out the rest of the events planned this weekend as part of Crystal Carnival and then there’s all the Lead Vegas nightlife to look forward to. It’s Leadville’s Winter Celebration.
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