Skis & Spurs

Skijoring takes the stage in Red Lodge in mud, snow, ice
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Brittany Riggleman, of Bozeman, falls from her horse Sunday during the National Finals Skijoring. (Enterprise photos by Nate Howard)

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Skier Sean Alexander, of Calgary, Alberta, competes in the long jump, the final event of the National Skijoring Race in Red Lodge, Sunday.

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Fiona Alverson, 12, of Livingston, holds her champion belt buckle during the awards ceremony Sunday. Alverson won the Pee Wee Division as a rider with a combined time of 69.7 seconds.

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The Alverson sisters, Fiona, 12, riding, and Phoebe, 10, skiing, race Sunday.

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Skiers and cowboys and cowgirls pair up to compete in the team sport of skijoring, Sunday in Red Lodge.

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Phoebe Alverson, 10, is all smile just after earning a first place time as a skier on Sunday at the National Skijoring Race in Red Lodge.

By Nate Howard
Enterprise Staff Writer

If you’re thinking skijoring isn’t serious, you haven’t been to the National Finals Skijoring Races at the Red Lodge Fairgrounds.

The event has grown since its beginning in 1980. Nearly 100 teams in three divisions competed this year and more than 1,000 spectators gathered for the Saturday and Sunday events.

While the “National Finals” title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the Red Lodge event is sanctioned by Skijoring America and is one of a dozen national competitions that serious competitors will not miss.

Skijoring involves a bond between rider, skier and horse as they apply their skills in mud, snow and ice.

Rope handling is considered just as important as the skiing and horse riding talents.

Skijoring is based on a Scandinavian military tradition. A team made of a rider and skier navigate a 700-plus-foot course, with the horse and rider taking a track to the inside of the course while the skier in tow skis 20-some slalom gates and four jumps in hopes of completing two fast, clean runs.

Riders push their horse as fast as they can go making two turns on slick ground.

The course in Red Lodge featured four jumps and a slalom course for the skier, involving two turns on slick ground. The sport is not without its risks. On Sunday alone, an ambulance entered the track three times and one horse fell. Fortunately, there were no major injuries to riders or horses. Two contestants from Livingston proved their talent with a first-place award going to rider, Fiona Alverson, 12, in the Pee Wee division. Her sister, Phoebe Alverson, 10, earned a first place time on Sunday but lost the rope on the Saturday event, setting her score back. Phoebe said her favorite part of the event is the jumps. Dennis Alverson, the sisters’ father, said he started the girls on horseback when they were 2 years old. Alverson said the event is a great community for the girls. “There’s many women riders and they’ve taken the girls under their wings,” he said. Winners receive a belt buckle made by Montana Silversmiths, one of many sponsors of the event, as well as cash prizes. Here is a list of the winners:

Open Division:

Richard Weber, rider, and Tyler Smedsrud, skier, both of Ridgway, Colorado, with a combined time (two runs) of 36.0600. The cash prize was $2,753.

Sport Division:

Kevin Frueh, rider, of Belgrade, and skier Glen Hutchinson, of Big Sky, with a time of 39.7700. The cash prize was $1,927.

Novice Division:

Kayla Seaman, rider, of Kalispell, and skier Brinton Barry, of Bozeman, with a time of 43.5000. The cash prize was $825.