SkijoringPosted: April 13, 2012
As you might have guessed from my blog posts this winter, I have a soft spot for dogs and dog sledding and winter Alaskan activities. So when a friend offered to take me skijoring, I was more than excited.
Skijoring is a winter sport where a person on cross-country skis is pulled by one or more dogs. The word skijoring is derived from a Norwegian word that means ski driving. It is a popular sport here in Alaska, and after a morning on the trails, I can see why.
I met my friend and her two dogs, Sierra and Walker, at Creamer’s Field, a wildlife reserve in Fairbanks, AK with over 40 miles of trails that stretch out into the valley. Breakup (spring in Alaska) is well underway here, so we started early to take advantage of cooler morning temperatures. The trails looked fast with hard-packed, icy snow, which made me a little nervous. I am not a particularly experienced cross-country skier, but I certainly didn’t want to miss the chance to try skijoring.
I would be skijoring with Walker, a large, white Alaskan husky, who I already knew and loved. But, before we hit the trail, we all had to get harnessed up. My harness fit around the waist and then between my legs, much like a climbing harness. In front, it connected to a main line that would link me to Walker. Walker wore his dog sledding harness. We clipped into our skis, and the dogs where ready to run.
Walker loves to chase so we started out fast. For the first fifteen minutes I pretty much snow plowed and said, “easy Walker, easy” so that we didn’t run straight into my friend and Sierra who were out in front of us. It was awesome.
Skijoring is a little like sledding. Even on flat ground you get that wind-in-your-face-feeling as you glide over the snow. It made me feel like a giddy little kid again. I am not sure how I will ever go back to regular cross-country skiing.
But the best part was about a half hour in when Walker and I got into a rhythm. We were moving down the trail like one unit, my sliding steps in time with the padding of his feet, the hiss of the ice-snow underneath us like the sound of waves on a beach. The rhythm of movement is soothing.
We stayed out on the trails a little over two hours, and I felt pretty good that I only fell twice. And Walker was great. He listened to commands so well, waited when I did fall, and pulled hard the whole time. It almost, but not quite, makes me wish the snow wasn’t melting so fast.
What a great way to say goodbye to winter.