Thrills and spills are on the program for the second annual Rice Lake Spurs & Skis Skijoring Stampede Event. The event showcases horse-pulled skiers and snowboarders navigating a snow-covered course at speeds reaching nearly 30 miles per hour.
This year’s competition will be held Saturday, March 7, on the UW-Eau Claire Barron County Campus in Rice Lake. Practice runs will be held Friday, March 6, and the actual competition will begin at 1 p.m. the following day.
“Around 1,000 spectators attended (last year’s event),” said Shane Jorgenson, event producer. “Last year, we had 120 entries with kids as young as 5 and adults as old as 80. It’s definitely taking off.”
The competition has four different timed skijoring categories: open, sport, snowboarding and youth. Competing for cash prizes and winner buckles, skiers and snowboarders are pulled behind horses galloping down a track of between 900 and 1,200 feet.
Skijorers hold one end of a long rope similar to a water ski tow with the other end connected to the towing animal. With snow flying off the hooves of mounted horses galloping down a track, the race has skiers navigate the courses which include a straight run, a slalom course with gates/flags and jumps.
“A cowboy can ski behind different horses and can enter multiple times,” Jorgenson said. “Some horses have more speed than others. Competitors can also enter multiple events.”
The competition also offers ring jousting where competitors try to “spear” rings with one hand, collecting the rings on their arms. Rings not speared add to the racer’s time.
Skijoring is derived from skikjøring, a Norwegian word meaning “ski driving.” The practice of skiing behind towing animals such as dogs or reindeer as well as horses is believed to have been developed by the Sami people of Scandinavia. There are also reports the animal-powered mode of winter travel began in 13th century China.
Stampede attendees will find food and beverages inside and outside the warming tent while enjoying other activities such as a bonfire. Event location is 1800 College Drive in Rice Lake.
“With the Rice Lake Tourism & Retail Development funding this event through a matching JEM (Joint Effort Marketing) Grant from Department of Tourism, we also decided to sponsor a snow sculpture contest,” said Nicky Repka, executive director of Rice Lake Tourism.
The snow sculpture competition will be Saturday morning with judging to be at noon. Anyone is welcome to enter free of charge; however, the event is limited to 15 teams. Businesses and other groups are encouraged to register to compete for cash prizes.
More event information and ticket sales can be obtained by visiting ricelakewis.com and the Western Wisconsin Extreme Skijoring Event Facebook page.