Skiers grab your skis, riders grab your horses, and spectators get ready to watch the fun — it’s time for the annual skijoring competition.
Whitefish Winter Carnival Ski Joring returns this weekend at the Big Mountain Ranch just east of Whitefish off Voerman Road.
“We expect another great event,” said. Mike Righetti, member of the skijoring committee. “The course is built and we’re ready. We’re the original skijoring event.”
Skijoring runs Saturday, Jan. 26 and Sunday, Jan. 27. Opening ceremonies take place at 11:30 a.m. and competition begins at noon both days.
Righetti said he expects between 80 and 100 competitors along with 2,500 spectators each day at the event.
Skijoring is a traditional Winter Carnival event that pairs a horse and rider with a skier being pulled through a course that includes gates, hitting jumps and grabbing rings. The duo with the fastest time wins.
The course is a modified J-shape that includes four jumps and rings to grab, and the shape allows for a better viewing experience than a straight course.
“The course is more exciting than last year,” Righetti said.
There are four divisions — open, sport and novice and the costume class, which allows for competitors to dress up, but not compete for prize money.
The event committee has been working to address challenges related to parking that occurred at last year’s event.
“We expect to have better access for park and think we solved many of the issues by creating new roads,” Righetti said. “But four-wheel drive is needed and drivers should know they will be parking in a field.”
Righetti said though organizers expect spectators to be able to park at the event site, in case of warmer temperatures a shuttle system is planned as a back-up.
Registration for the event takes place at Grouse Mountain Lodge on Friday, Jan. 25 from 6-9 p.m.
A calcutta on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Casey’s in downtown Whitefish gives folks the chance to bid on teams for how they will do in Sunday’s event. Money is awarded for the top three teams in each division excluding the costume division. The skijoring committee is donating 25 percent of the calcutta proceeds to the Glacier Twins, the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1087 and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Posse.
An awards ceremony is set for Sunday at the Great Northern.
Admission is $5 per person each day. Ages 12 and under are free. Parking is free.
Winter Carnival Ski Joring is being held at Big Mountain Ranch at 1875 Voerman Road. The entrance is near the Voerman Road and Dillon Road intersection east of Whitefish.
To get there from Highway 93, take JP Road east through two 90-degree corners, then take a left on Monegan Road and then turn right onto Voerman Road heading east for about two miles. The entrance is on the left.
To get there from Montana 40, turn onto Dillon Road and continue until there is a 90-degree corner. The entrance is on the right on Voerman Road.
Visit www.whitefishskijoring.com for more information, and for those interested in being a sponsor for the event should contact Rightetti at 253-9911.