Skijoring, a skier pulled by a horse, dog or recreational vehicle, took root in Red Lodge circa 1964 as part of a Cutter Races event hosted by the Beartooth Roping and Riding Club. While animals have been pulling sleds, skiers and carriages throughout history, the sport is believed to originate from Scandinavia. The Montana spin on Skijoring brings extreme skier and cowboy together for an incredible competition.
Kristen Beck had no idea she would someday be the event coordinator for the Red Lodge Skijoring Association. Three years ago, it looked like the event was losing steam and volunteers.
“I asked how I could help keep it going and the reins were handed to me. I was finishing the final year of my doctorate as a nurse practitioner and wasn’t sure I could do it, but the event was too awesome to let it just fade away,” said Beck.
The association had been hosting the National Finals Skijoring Races since 1980 and became a celebrated event in the community. Beck knew it was worth fighting for and began asking for help.
“I called my friend Monica Plecker to help me and she has been there every step of the way,” said Beck.
Along with Plecker, many volunteers and supporters have worked vigilantly with Beck to maintain the races while adding new elements to make it a family-friendly event.
“We are going to have kid’s activities this year like a s’more station and bouncy horse games,” said Becker.
Beck heard what the community wanted and has also incorporate a pee-wee race division for children 12 and under; a junior division for 13-17; and a century division for seniors.
In addition, the event will offer races for novice, sport, and open (for top competitors), as well as a snowboarding completion.
“People asked for a snowboarding component, so we are providing that for them,” she said.
The event is held at the Home of Champion Rodeo grounds. The 700 foot, U-shaped track takes the rider and skier through 20 slalom gates and four jumps.
“They are hitting speeds up to 25 miles per hour. That doesn’t sound very fast, but on a horse – or being pulled by a horse- that is very fast,” said Becker.
There is also a separate long jump competition in which the rider and horse pull their skier over one jump for the longest distance each day. Distances have exceeded 60 feet.
Festivities kick off Friday, March 8 with a registration party at the Silver Strike Sports bar. Races begin noon-3 p.m., Saturday, March 9 with a Calcutta betting pool at --------. Twenty percent of proceeds go to local charities, like Operation Second Chance and Carbon County Kids Rodeo. The evening wraps-up with a dance at the Snow Creek Bar.
The races continue on Sunday from noon to 3 p.m., with a chili cook off to benefit Beartooth Cupboards.
“We will also have little fire pits everywhere and a heating tent,” said Becker.
Attendees can enjoy the many onsite vendors, beer and food trucks as well as wagon rides from parking lot to racing grounds.
Sunday evening closes the events with an awards ceremony at Foster and Logans Pub & Grill with cash prizes and buckles for the top four racers.
Like the undeniable sense of unity in Red Lodge, there is something for everyone at the National Finals Skijoring Races.
“Red Lodge is an amazing town. We couldn’t do this with the community involvement, said Becker.
For more information call Kristen Beck at 808-283-2201 or visit redlodgeskijoring.com.