Skijoring popularity spreading

Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2003

ASHLAND, N.H. (AP) -- Skijoring, a popular winter pastime in parts of Alaska, is taking hold in New England and the upper Midwest.

All you need is a pet dog of some size, a tow line and belt and cross-country skis, though telemark or downhill skis can be used.

A little dog training helps, too.

''It's nice to have them out in front of you instead of by your side,'' says Kathy Pickett, who owns Nooksack Racing Supply in Oxford, Maine.

With one dog, the skier usually has to do some of the work; with two or three dogs, the skier's effort diminishes, but the speed picks up.

Pickett started selling dogsledding equipment in 1976, but now at least 25 percent of her business is for skijoring, the biggest growth area of the dog-mushing sport, she said.

''In the last 10 years, we've really seen that taking off,'' said David Steele, the executive director of the International Sled Dog Racing Association in Merrifield, Minn.

He said the proof is in the growing number of sanctioned races, and the increase in classes with one- two- and three-dog races.

In places such as Minnesota and Alaska, they now have special skijoring trails.

It is not unusual for people to head out after work wearing a headlamp.

Many of the places that take people for dogsled rides also teach skijoring.

The name comes from a Norwegian word for ''ski-driving,'' and first began many years ago as a way to travel behind horses and reindeer.

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