What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

The ski jump and the rodeo combine for this extreme sport

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, while most of us are ready for spring, some extreme athletes in Montana are savoring the last bit of winter. In skijoring, horse riders tow their human teammates through a 700-foot obstacle course at nearly 35 mph.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now to our "NewsHour" Shares, something that caught our eye.

    While most of the country is ready for spring — I know I am — some extreme athletes out West are more than happy to savor the last bit of winter.

    Julia Griffin teamed up with Montana PBS for this report.

  • Julia Griffin:

    In Big Sky, Montana, earlier this month, snow fell gracefully, and seasoned skiers readied for competition. But hold your horses. This wasn't your average ski race.

    Welcome to the rough-and-tumble world of skijoring.

  • Scott Ping:

    Skijoring is a horse and rider pulling a skier through a series of gates and jumps in the least amount of time possible.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Scott Ping has been a skijoring rider for more than 20 years.

  • Scott Ping:

    My horse Kona is the best ride ever. I just sit there and go, yah. That's all I do. He does all the work.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Riders like Ping tow their teammates through a 700-foot obstacle course at nearly 35 miles an hour. The skiers weave among slalom gates and launch from snow-packed jumps. Should they drop their rope or fail to stay upright, the team's run is disqualified.

  • Melissa Ostrander:

    You want to go fast, but you don't want to go too fast as to where you lose your skier.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Horse lover Melissa Ostrander ran the entire Montana skijoring circuit this year.

  • Melissa Ostrander:

    You got to pay attention to your skier. You got to know your horse, and you got to control your horse. That's the hardest part about being a rider, is making sure that you don't hurt anyone else, your horse, your skier, your anybody around here, and making it fun for everyone.

  • Julia Griffin:

    While the name may be unfamiliar, skijoring isn't new. A version of the adrenaline-filled sport was an exhibition event at the 1928 Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

    Today, participants of all ages and experience levels compete across the U.S. and Canada.

    Pete Jessen and his wife Anna are full-time ski patrollers at Big Sky Resort. They race together at skijoring events.

  • Pete Jessen:

    She says couples that play together stay together, and I say, any time you put two sports together, it's twice as fun. She likes going fast on the horse. I like going fast on skis, and it all came together really well.

  • Julia Griffin:

    For the pros, bragging rights, buckles and big bucks are up for grabs. At some competitions, prize purses can top $20,000. But, for most, the camaraderie of the tight-knit sport is the biggest draw.

  • Melissa Ostrander:

    It's basically a big family, and we come together at this event and say our howdies, get along, drink some beer and go racing.

  • Julia Griffin:

    Official skijoring competitions will return to the Rocky Mountains next December.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Julia Griffin.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The key is knowing when to let go.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest