Skijoring Combines Cross-Country Skiing and Dog Sledding

Learn about the traditional cold-weather travel method of skijoring, which entails hooking sled dogs up to cross-country skis.

| January/February 1982

  • Skijoring
    One to three dogs are ideal for skijoring.
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    The Collins sisters get around Alaska winters by skijoring.

  • Skijoring
  • 073-059-01

As folks living in the rural areas of Snow Belt states know all too well, automobile travel can be downright impossible at times during the winter months when snow-packed and snow-drifted roads tend to be the rule rather than the exception. However, here in the bush country of Alaska, my sister Julie and I welcome heavy snowfalls. That's because once a good, thick, white blanket covers the ground, we can hitch up our sled dogs and begin another season of canine-powered cross-country skiing!

Skijoring — or skiing with the help of a pulling dog — combines some of the speed and the excitement of alpine schussing (downhill skiing) with the wide range of travel that's possible in ski touring. It's a fast and practical way to get about, too. When skijoring on an open trail towed by two or three dogs, I can easily cover over 40 miles a day. This allows me to enjoy the sport while running a trapline, toting groceries out to our isolated homestead or just exploring the countryside.

If you live in an area that's snow-covered for part of the year (and especially if you have a trainable canine or two roaming around the place), you might want to try your skill at this exhilarating Nordic sport.

Finding Gear for Skijoring

In order to outfit yourself for skijoring, you'll need to purchase (or borrow) a pair of sturdy and easily maneuverable cross-country skis and bindings, as well as comfortably fitting cross-country ski boots (poles just seem to complicate matters, so I never use them). I've found that wooden recreational-type touring skis with standard three-pin toe bindings hold up fairly well and I prefer unlined boots that can dissipate foot perspiration to fur-cushioned ones.

If you're new at skijoring, you'd be wise to consult a good book on cross-country skiing for information about the various types of equipment. Then rent several different makes of gear (your choices will include wooden, fiberglass, waxed and waxless skis) before deciding on a particular brand or style.

Other accessories that will come in handy on a skijor outing include snow goggles or sunglasses (to guard your eyes against glare), gaiters (for keeping your legs and boots from packing with snow) and a waistpack or a rucksack (pick one that "wears" comfortably and rests snugly against your body so that your balance won't be upset by the added load) in which to stow ski wax, a first aid kit, trail maps and a compass and a lunch or snack.


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