Skijoring Is Great Winter Exercise for Humans and Their Best Friends

Lauren Fisher

Photo: Sat-Electric | CC 3.0

Hubby helps our husky into the brilliant red crossback harness designed specifically for working dogs – although Betty, who spends most of her days curled up on the sofa or bed, hardly qualifies.

I’m gliding along almost effortlessly behind the happiest dog in the world.

We load up into the car: skis, boots, poles, dog treats, and doggo. It’s a short drive to Carson Park, which boasts a pleasant cross-country ski loop in the snowy months. Now is when the real work begins. Two amateur skiers have to stuff their woolen sock-clad feet into chilled ski boots, stomp their gear out to the trail, and get ready to go while a leaping, sprinting husky wraps them up in her lead and tries to back out of that scarlet harness. She managed it once, and we had to chase her up behind the stadium for fear of losing sight of her. We were much more careful after that.

Betty cries while we get ready.

One probably has an idea of what a dog sounds like. They bark and boof and occasionally play-growl. But the sound a husky makes before a run is unlike any other. It’s somewhere between a yip and a sob, a warbling wail that proclaims all the agony of being just out of arms reach from the thing you love most. Huskies know when they are about to get that thing, and lament for it to come just a little sooner.

When she’s firmly attached to my waist via a bungee cord and I shout “Hike!” the desperate yowling morphs into an ecstatic yodel and the hound hunkers down, shoulders high, head low, clawing at the snow for purchase. Off she bounds, assisted by a few pumps of my ski poles, and then I’m gliding along almost effortlessly behind the happiest dog in the world.

Hubby, unaided by puppypower, struggles to keep up. Betty barrels down the lane, svelte frame rippling as she stretches full-length on the bound and pulls her legs in, dragging the Earth beneath her along in its rotation. Her peanut-butter-and-marshmallow fur flattens to her speeding body and her tongue lolls wildly in the wind.

This dog never had to learn “gee” for right and “haw,” for left. A heritage of purpose informed her the first time Hubby uttered a command, and she instinctually led him as directed. She did, however, have to learn “woah.” Stop? Why on earth would she do that?

The answer is, because she does get tired. Properly, well-mannered dog tired. A mile and a half at top speed is enough to slow her down to an exhausted trot alongside us – she is a sofa pup, after all. She cools down in the snow while we load our gear back into the car, and it’s time to take her home for warm snuggles and ice cube treats.

Skijoring is the sport of attaching one’s ski-shod self to a speedy pupper and allowing it to pull you swiftly through the snow. Although some doggos are more suited than others to the task of pulling people, any healthy lab or spaniel can be a great skibuddy. This is a great way to tucker out an energetic dog or husband.

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