A skijoring competition in Colorado. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cross country skiing is usually considered the calmer, slower variety of its downhill cousin: a way to get some exercise and enjoy the winter landscape. But skijoring, which combines cross country with the power of the animal kingdom, is something else altogether.  Skijorers crank up their own muscle power by harnessing themselves to horses, dogs, the occasional reindeer or even a snowmobile for recreation and competitions that range from sprints to marathons to the long jump.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The most common variety of this rather bizarre sport is dog skijoring. The skier is pulled by dogs (usually between one and three), adding extra power to what his or her own legs and arms can do. Sprinters can hit speeds of 30 mph; the longest marathon race, the Road Runner 100, runs – you guessed it – 100 miles. The International Federation of Sleddog Sports, Inc. hosts Skijoring World Championships every other year; in 2011, the United States got its own national championship event, in Minneapolis.

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Equestrian skijoring is the more adrenaline pumping version of the sport. Given the power of a horse compared to even a team of dogs, skiers don’t do much to power themselves; mostly they just hang on. The extra speed makes events like the long jump possible- a 56′ jump off a ramp earned one competitor first place at the 2011 championships in Whitefish, Montana.

Motorized skijoring, replacing the animal with a snowmobile or ATV, has even more potential for high speeds, but isn’t as popular as the horse and dog versions. It seems there’s just something more exciting about being dragged by a galloping horse than by something with a motor.

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Then there are all the even odder, more niche variations on skijoring- like bikejoring (just what it sounds like) and cani cross (cross country running while harnessed to dogs). Craziest of all may be the 100mph racing this 1955 video called the “most dangerous sport in the world”: