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Water-Skiing On Snow: Skijorers Aren't Just Horsing Around

A horseman pulls a skier down the street in Leadville, Colo., in March, during the city's annual skijoring event. It was the event's 62nd year.
Rick Wilking
A horseman pulls a skier down the street in Leadville, Colo., in March, during the city's annual skijoring event. It was the event's 62nd year.

Terri Moitozo, 52, kicks her boots into her downhill skis in Rochester, N.H. Odd thing is, she's 30 miles from any mountain.

"Combining two things I love, skiing and horses," she says. "I'm excited!

Moitozo doesn't need gravity to fly across the snow — that's what her horse, Friday, is for. That, and her buddy Nick Barishian, who's riding Friday.

"He's my horse husband," she says, pointing to Barishian. "My regular husband doesn't do the horse stuff, so you gotta hire out."

Moitozo and others are learning equestrian skijoring; other kinds of skijoring involve skiers pulled by sled dogs, poodles, even motorcycles. It looks like water-skiing on snow.

Skijoring had its moment of glory back in 1928, as a demonstration sport at the Winter Olympics. That was the last time the sport was celebrated on the world stage. Now skijoring enthusiasts are trying to bring this unusual sport back.

Geoff Smith, president of the North East Ski Joring Association and a competitive skijorer, travels to sanctioned races from Montana to Quebec to New Hampshire. On an equestrian skijoring course, skiers weave between gates, fly over jumps up to 8 feet high and collect rings dangling in midair. Skijorers race for time, hitting speeds up to 40 miles an hour. For every ring a skijorer doesn't carry across the finish line, two seconds is added to the raw score; missing a gate or jump adds five seconds.

Before Moitozo can try this out in the snow, she and 10 or so other newbies gather around Smith for instruction. In a chilly barn, horse and rider trot around Smith, who issues instructions, like: "Another good safety tip is not to let the rope get underneath the horse's tail, 'cause that causes a rodeo."

Duly warned, Moitozo and Friday head out. Friday gallops ahead, pulling Moitozo along by a rope. They fly over three ski jumps, past six rings that she reaches out to grab before reaching the finish line.

Moitozo thinks it went well.

"That is just fun! It's water-skiing on snow! It's the best!"

Not surprisingly, Moitozo and Friday have already signed up for their first sanctioned skijoring race — and Moitozo says she's recruiting her friends.

Copyright 2014 New Hampshire Public Radio

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