Scandinavians long have combined skis and dogs for efficient wintertime travel. Skijoring, which translates literally to “ski-driving” in Norwegian, borrows techniques and equipment from dog sledding and Nordic skiing to create a unique sport that is currently seeing a renaissance in the United States.
It’s easy to see why. Imagine cruising at twice the speed of a cross-country skier all while getting a workout and taking your dog for the run of his life.
My dog Rodney and I recently invested in a skijoring package from Free Spirit Outfitter. The Deluxe Skijor Package includes a custom harness and booties for the dog, a padded hip belt for the human, a shock-absorbing tug line, and a detailed instructional book.
On the snow, the system works smoothly. The hip belt fits me well and is comfortable when Rodney is pulling. The tug line is dynamic enough to take the shock when we start off abruptly, but not bouncy on the run.
Most importantly, the harness fits my dog perfectly. While it looks loose when he’s not pulling, the straps mold precisely to his body once the line goes taut. (To get this fit, the company has you make several exact measurements of your dog’s dimensions before sewing the custom harness.)
Free Spirit Outfitter’s gear has nice touches like a pocket on the hip belt to store car keys and dog treats. And there’s an emergency release on the tug line in case your dog heads around one side of a tree and you the other.
While Rodney is a strong, 90-pound Weimaraner pup, any dog weighing more than 40 pounds can be trained to skijor. Huskies and Malamutes are obvious candidates, but Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and even Poodles can excel at the sport.
And best of all, because most breeds have instincts to run and pull, both human and dog will love it.
Contact: Free Spirit Outfitter, 1-800-355-5575, http://www.gearfordogs.com.