A scene from the 2022 Pole and Spur skijoring event. Pass Herald photo
Nicholas L. M. Allen
Mar 8, 2023
The Crowsnest Pass will be host to the sixth annual skijoring, where horse, rider, and skier teams will race against the clock through an obstacle course with gates, rings, and jumps to claim glory as the fastest team on March 11 at the Sartoris Staging Area.
The Pole and Spur, the name for the Crowsnest skijoring, will start at 11 a.m. after a safety meeting with event organizer Joe Trotz. Trotz has been helping put on The Pole and Spur since it started. The first few events were held in February, before they moved the event to March, where it is a bit warmer.
Trotz explained his job is to build the track, organize all the panels, snow fence and equipment, with the help of other volunteers. He explained how they were first inspired by contests held south of the border in Whitefish, Montana.
The event first began in Europe, with skijoring behind reindeer making its official debut in Stockholm at the Nordic Games of 1901 and is still done in some Scandinavian countries. By 1912, skijoring behind horses was a popular activity in Switzerland and France, before making its way to North America in 1915 at Lake Placid, New York.
After spreading across the United States, it made its way into Canada where, as of 2022, there are around 30 events held in the United States and Canada. Trotz mentioned a competition circuit for the sport in the States, saying they borrowed several rules from their handbook, while adding some rules of their own.
“We have our own format that we follow. We follow the rulebook, but we throw a few of our own things in there,” said Trotz.
It’s not just a speed track, as they build it in an oval shape with flags for the skiers to hit. If they miss a flag or a jump, they are deducted time from their run.
“It’s very competitive. We do one complete run of everybody and then we split it in the middle, so we have an A and B division,” explained Trotz.
They also have a novice division to compete in with just the one grouping. With the speed of both the horses and skiers during the event, safety is a concern as there is “always something that can go wrong” during the races.
“Then we have the cowboy curling, which is our own deal, where the horses pull people on tubes and we have a big ring, just like curling. Whoever gets the closest to the circle wins,” added Trotz.
He extended his thanks to the municipality, workers, sponsors and the snowmobile club for use of their groomer to help build the track.
Admission at the gate for adults is $10 with a beer garden, 50/50 draw, food vendors, rodeo announcer and a DJ providing entertainment and fun outside of the racing. No outside liquor is permitted and bring your own chairs as seating will be limited. No dogs and/or other animals are allowed at the site during the races.
Onsite parking is reserved for contestants, volunteers, and for those with limited accessibility so the organizers recommend hopping on a shuttle bus from downtown Blairmore with two shuttle buses running from the Greenhill Hotel parking lot starting at 10:30 a.m. There will also be a social at the Greenhill Hotel after the event for those 18 and older.