In Alaska, dogs and people just naturally go together. And nowhere do they go together more than in the sport of skijoring, where human and animal are tethered together for a skiing adventure unlike any other.
Skijoring is a winter sport where a person on cross-country skis is pulled by a dog (or dogs). The word is derived from the Norwegian word “skikjoring,” meaning ski driving. The skier provides power with skis and poles and the dogs add power by running and pulling.
The skier and dog each wear a harness connected by about eight feet of rope, including a bungee cord that acts as a shock absorber and, in most cases, a quick-release. The majority of skiers use shorter, stiffer “skate” skis for higher speeds with better control.
The dog or dogs can be any breed that is an enthusiastic puller. While you might first think of an Alaska or Siberian husky, a malamute or other northern-breed dog, very often you’ll see dogs that wind up in mushing mixes such as German shorthaired pointers. Energetic dogs that love being outdoors with their owners such as golden retrievers, labs, giant schnauzers or crossbreeds will often take to skijoring.
Anchorage Skijoring Trails
Anchorage’s 300-plus mile trail system is tailor-made for skijoring. Most trails are classified as multi-use, so not only can you use major trails such as the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and the Chester Creek greenbelt trail, you also can make a quick drive to Kincaid Park, Far North Bicentennial Park, Chugiak, Bartlett High and the trails of Anchorage’s Hillside.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Campbell Tract is especially suited to dog-friendly pursuits such as skijoring and mushing with easy vehicle access and long, looping trails.
The Anchorage Skijor Club hosts clinics, tours and competitions, and its website is a great source of local information.