To Ski or to Skijor – State Parks offerings for skiing with the dogs

Skijoring at Mount Spokane (photo credit Diana Roberts)

Skijoring is an ancient form of transportation originating in Scandinavia. Etymologically, it comes from the Norwegian ski, ski, and kjøring, driving. Skijoring involves a human on cross country skis and one to two dogs, or a horse. While skijoring by horse hasn’t yet caught on in our state parks, skijoring is increasingly enjoyed on Washington’s cross country trails.

“There is a good pool of people who use the trails at Spokane,” said Diana Roberts of the Mount Spokane skijoring community. And she said there was much to consider during the process to get skijoring allowed on the trails.

A set of guidelines keeps users happy. Among rules for skijoring at Mount Spokane include the following: each skier can have no more than two dogs, and they must be harnessed, remain under control, and stay in their lane when other skiers approach. Furthermore, it’s essential that every human picks up after his or her dogs.

There may be potential for any dog to thrive at skijoring. Roberts has two labs (one of whom is a mix); considering their relatively high energy and strength levels, labs are often naturals at skijoring. But smaller breeds also thrive. While it might be nice to rely entirely on the dog for power, skijoring is active for all parties involved, and simply keeping the leash taught is sufficient.

Skijoring at Mount Spokane (photo credit Diana Roberts)

For those interested in learning to skijor, two clinics are offered each winter at Mount Spokane. “They cap it at ten human-dog teams,” said Roberts. “They teach etiquette and how to get the dog moving and stopping. We prefer that people attend a clinic, or at least sign up for the skijor email list by contacting us via skijorspokane@yahoo.com as we do want skijorers to be fully cognisant of the rules and etiquette.” At Mount Spokane, skijoring gear is available for rent on Sundays (one of the designated skjoring days) and includes an adjustable dog harness, a tug line, and a belt (for the human). Visit the Spokane Nordic Ski Association for more info on all things skijoring.

Other state parks where one might skijor include Crystal Springs, Iron Horse State Park, Lake Easton, and Pearrygin Lake. Be sure to stick to the multi-use trails and heed rules posted at trailheads to keep trails open to skijoring. And don’t forget your sno-park permit.

Happy skijoring!

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