Skijoring in Ontario Backcountry

It is a winter dog or horse powered sport popularized in North America and derived from the Scandinavian sport of pulka. It involves a horse or from one to three dogs hitched directly to a human being on skis.

While skijoring, the person wears a wide waistband with a clip for attaching a lead, which is attached to the harness worn by the dog. Special quick-release hitches or hooks are available, used so that the skijorer may unhook the dog’s lead rapidly. The dog provides extra power to the skier, who uses either a classic cross-country technique, or the faster skate skiing technique. Unlike regular cross-country skiing, the skis are hot waxed from tip to tail, to avoid slowing the dog team down.

Any dog over the age of one year, and in general good health, can pull a skijorer. The classic northern breeds, such as Siberian and Alaskan huskies, Malamutes, Inuit dogs, take to skijoring with glee. However, any pet dog is capable of enjoying this. Border collies, Golden Retrievers, Giant Schnauzers, Labs, and many cross-breeds are seen in harness.

The dogs are taught the classic mushing commands to start running (hike), turn (gee and haw), and stop. Training is best done on foot, before the person straps on their skis, to avoid being pulled into objects, like trees or half-frozen creeks.