Communities turn to ‘skijoring’ for winter festivals

By Ashleigh Fox

The Sheridan Press

Via Wyoming News Exchange

SHERIDAN — Town by town and volunteer by volunteer, communities throughout Wyoming are working to make the state a worthwhile stop for athletes competing in Skijoring America-sanctioned events throughout the year.

Sheridan is now one of those contributing cities, but if the local event trends along with other skijoring host cities around the state, a strong economic impact and local buy-in might not be reflected in the first few years.

Pinedale added skijoring to its more than 50-year-old winter carnival when it resurrected the event in 2016, and chairwoman of Main Street Pinedale Leah Radakovich said it took until the fourth year to really nail down the art of hosting.

“In order to make it a successful skijoring event, you’ve gotta be well organized,” Radakovich said. “Keeping the competitors happy, keeping the spectators happy and everything running smoothly is huge.”

Families travel together for skijoring events throughout the country and demand excellence and organization of the sanctioned events, as some have been competing for decades. Leadville, Colorado, has been successfully hosting skijoring for decades and remains a circuit stop to emulate. Years of trial and error typically result in smoothing out glitches and perfected practice.

“I didn’t get yelled at by anybody, so that was a huge goal of mine,” Radakovich said with a laugh. “Everything really went off without a hitch; we got really lucky.”

Having efficient and reliable timing systems, enough portable restrooms and trash cans available, grandstands for spectators, race heat sheets for competitors, food vendors and proper emergency response teams on site were imperative for the success of Pinedale’s event. The big switch this year that resulted in positive feedback from the community was a bold, entertaining announcer.

Sheridan hosted its inaugural winter rodeo event last weekend. The benefit of having amenities closely available due to the event being held downtown helped eliminate worries like having enough bathrooms or close access to emergency services, as Rocky Mountain Ambulance and Sheridan Fire-Rescue Department flanked each end of the course. RMA was staged at its home base for optimal navigation through the blocked-off streets if its services were needed.

The city buy-in was nearly immediate and the backing from businesses and volunteers has been overwhelming. Sheridan WYO Rodeo board scattered volunteers throughout the event; a polo club brought in a WYO Rodeo favorite — cowboy polo — and numerous vendors sold refreshments throughout the day.

 “I think Wyoming overall is a festival-driven state,” Gaylord said. “You go from your guys’ rodeo to Cheyenne Frontier Days to everything Casper pulls off and Jackson Hole’s hill climbs and the rodeo everyday in Cody. You just go around the state and that’s what generates our excitement is we’re small but we’re always going to have something fun for you to do.”

“I know that’s what Sundance is trying for and I know Sheridan’s been attempting that for a long time, too.”

Gaylord suggested everyone keep their dates for each skijoring event annually to create a non-competitive circuit loop for skijoring athletes to traverse the state and provide economic growth during the slow winter months.

Sheridan’s impact is yet to be determined, but organizers anticipate a positive boost for the city’s economy during one of the slowest months of the year.