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Local family rings in New Year skijoring

KALISPELL – Like many families who gather together to bring in the New Year in their own very special way, the Alfiero siblings spent the New Year celebrating together with sister Erica on horseback dragging brothers Chris and Jesse strapped to a pair of skis holding a rope for dear life through a snowy 850-foot-long obstacle course at breakneck speeds. 

Encouraged by their mother to find something they all could do together for the new year, Erica came up with the idea of competing in the inaugural skijoring competition at Rebecca Farm, the home of The Event equestrian triathlon in Kalispell.

Skijoring traces its heritage to Scandinavia, where the first words uttered during the infancy of the sport — although not officially documented — were “Here, hold my beer and throw me that rope.”

The sport of skijoring is simply a unique blend of skiing and horse riding. A skier is towed behind a horse and rider team by gripping the end of 30-foot rope tied to the horn of the rider’s saddle. With skier in tow, the horse and rider race down a snow-covered course usually several city blocks in length. 

While flying at speeds over 18-30 miles per hour, a skier then must capture rings, maneuver around a series of gates and go over some big-air jumps.

Erica, a hunter-jumper competitor, got into skijoring a few years ago. 

“I have been riding all my life,” Erica said. “I saw this one year and thought it would be fun to give it a try.”

All weekend long, Erica teamed up with Chica, a 23-year-old Pro NRA mare, owned by quarter horse breeder Mic Snyder.

On Saturday, the first race for Erica and Chris ended with Chris losing his footing before crossing the finish line resulting in a DNS (did not score).

“I wasn’t anticipating the horse being that fast,” Chris said. “I thought I would just hold on and make the turns, but it was a little too fast for me.”

Chris performed much better on Sunday, completing the race in 23.16 seconds, while brother Jesse finished in 27.08 seconds.

For those interested in trying or simply watching this outlandish extreme sport, the next local race will be held in Whitefish on Jan. 27-28.

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