Rob's Blog Archive

May 15, 2016

What is Skijoring










I recently combined skijoring and sledding to run the first 500 miles of the Iditarod Trail with a four dog team.  Prior to the trip, I realized that there would be bare sections as well as technical sections that I wouldn’t be able to skijor.  I designed my pulk so that it was rideable.  With that, all I had to do was pull off my skis, bungee them to the pulk, and hop on to get through those sections. 

With this, it was easy to classify what I was doing.  if I was on the sled, I was sledding.  If I was on my skis, my dogs pulling me and my pulk, I was skijoring.

It did raise the question, though, exactly what is skijoring?  Part of what was going through my mind was that skijoring is at a juncture similar to climbing during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  At that time, the climbing community had to decide whether or not what was happening in Yosemite was still climbing.  Previously, rock climbing without the goal of a mountain summit was considered practice, not real climbing.  Yet, the Yosemite mob was putting up great routes with exemplary style.  The community decided to be inclusive, an attitude that remains.  There was never an argument whether or not climbing in a rock gym was “climbing.”   Climbing has reaped overwhelming benefits by being inclusive.  With this, keeping a broad definition for skijoring makes a lot of sense to me.

Another consideration is the word itself.  Skijoring comes from the Norwegian for “ski-driving.”  Given this, I think there’s a good argument that some of the ways people have been pulled around on skis that have been called skijoring----if a skier is drawn by a horse with a rider, the rider is actually doing most of the “driving” not the skier---maybe should have been called something else.  Conversely, last year when I was out in front of my team breaking trail and they were just pulling the pulk, not me, it could still be called ski-driving.  I was setting the course and, therefore, driving.  And I was certainly on my skis.  A lone person pulling a pulk might then also be called skijoring.  I'd add that that is already called skiing, and with this excluding it from skijoring makes sense to me. 

So, keeping history in mind, the translation of the Norwegian, as well as a goal to keep the definition broad without also renaming anything, I’d propose the following:  Skijoring is when a person on skis utilizes a source of power other than their own to pull that person, a load on a sled, or both.  There must be lines connecting everything/everybody, either in a sequential series, parallel connections, or combinations of these.   

This definition includes everything I’ve seen called skijoring as well as the case of me leading my dogs while they’re pulling the pulk.  It excludes a person riding a sled---no skis.  That’s sledding.  It excludes a person just pulling a pulk---no external power.  That’s skiing.  It excludes a person on skis acting as a free leader in front of dogs pulling a pulk---no connecting lines.  I’d call that skiing, too.  It excludes anytime somebody has taken their skis off and is running with the dogs and pulk---no skis.  If they’re attached by a line I’d call this canicross and if they're not I'd call it running.

Finally, everything that’s called Nordic mushing is also included.  Dogs, pulk, then a person, like I did on the Iditarod Trail, has also been called Nordic mushing as well as skijoring. 

Being out on the trail did force me to think about what I was doing.  I believe the definition I’m proposing for skijoring incorporates a lot of what I have been thinking.  I hope it also gets others to think about what they are doing.  More importantly, though, I hope it gets others to try different variations of skijoring.  What do you think?


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