Getting started: Skijoring


You cross-country ski. You walk your dog. Why not do both at the same time?

It’s called “skijoring.” Imagine dog sledding, but instead of a sled, the dogs are attached to a cross-country skier. The added power propels skijorers at speeds they can’t easily reach on their own. “In the same amount of time or energy, you could go twice the distance as you would without the dogs,” says Matt Todd, an avid skijorer and gear seller at The Bike Shop in Gravenhurst.

The ski-mad Nordic countries have been doing this for ages, but in Canada it’s only recently started to get popular. “It’s a great sport if you like working with dogs,” says skijorer Dave Bishop, the general manager at Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve, which offers outdoor winter activities. “It’s a team sport, a great workout, and really exciting.” Best of all, you’re both getting your exercise while you do it.

Get in gear: If you already own ski equipment, you can get set up for about $100.

1) Ski gear: Use your usual cross-country skiing gear, including poles.

2) Skijoring line: This runs roughly 2.5 metres between dog and human, with built-in stretch to absorb jerks on the line. It attaches to the skier with an emergency quick-release system that separates you from your dog with 
one pull.

3) Dog harness: 
Use a standard dog harness. Try a few different styles to find the one that fits Buddy best. If you’re running a two-dog team, you’ll need a neckline to keep them close together.

4) Human harness: Skijoring belts are wide to reduce strain and pinch-ing, but a regular climbing harness works fine

The dog: For once, Fido’s inability to heel is a good thing. Ideal dogs for skijoring like to pull and can run faster than you can ski. Any breed can do it, but the best are those weighing 16 to 32 kg. High-energy breeds, such as German pointers and shepherds, border collies, and huskies, are the most popular. Skijorers use one, two, or even three dogs; each pooch adds more speed and power. One dog is easiest to control and is sufficient for groomed trails. Two or three dogs are better for fresh snow, hilly terrain, and off-trail skijoring.