person skijoring with a white dog
Kind of like dogsledding. Minus the sled. |
Kind of like dogsledding. Minus the sled. |

Get to Know Skijoring, Your Dog’s Favorite Winter Sport

It's the snowy sport of champions (and their best friends).

You might be familiar with less-popular winter sports, having tuned into enough Winter Olympics to retain a few facts about bandy, ice stock sport, or skeleton racing. Maybe you're even an aficionado of the obscure art of ski ballet. But that doesn’t mean you’re familiar with skijoring, which begs the question: Do you even really love your pup?


man skijoring with horse
Giddy up, partner. | Natalie Behring/Getty Images News/Getty Images

What is skijoring?

It’s essentially cross-country skiing, but you’re holding a rope that’s attached to a dog, a couple of dogs, or, if you’re up for it, a horse. The animal then happily tows you along a snowy trail, kind of like a sled dog but without the heavy sled. Horse-led skijoring can involve either a second person riding the horse, or in some cases, the skijorer going it alone in a similar fashion. 

The term skijoring comes from the Norwegian skikjøring, or ski driving. The sport has been practiced in colder climates around the world for ages, dating back to a time when animals and skis were both commonly used for basic transportation.

couple skijoring
If you've got a healthy, active dog weighing more than 30 pounds, give them the gift of skijoring. | JMichl/E+/Getty Images

Skijoring in the US

Competitive skijoring is very much a thing in the States, and has been for at least the past century. It’s never quite broken into the mainstream, but you can watch skijoring races at family-friendly festivals like Minnesota's upcoming Great Northern, scheduled to run from January 25 to February 4, 2024. And every February in Hayward, Wisconsin, you can find skijorers and their Very Good Dogs racing down Main Street in the annual Barkie Birkie Skijor (2024’s event is set for February 22). And on the braver end of things, you can watch Idaho’s finest and furriest put their skills to the test this President’s Day weekend at Extreme SkiJor! in the ever-quirky town of Wallace (that’s the Center of the Universe, if you didn’t already know).

In recent years, winter getaway destinations have also added skijoring to their offerings, with luxury resorts in places like Montana and Colorado getting in on the frosty fun. And while these places might also showcase equestrian skijoring, newbies should know that dog-led skijoring is a bit more accessible as it requires less training and equipment. Plus, you can often harness up your own pup—granted they’re comfortable dragging you through the snow (Pomeranians need not apply).

little boy skijoring
Skijoring is fun for the whole family—even the family dog. | alexei_tm/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Where to try skijoring

We now turn to the question everyone is itching to ask. Those of you wishing to BYO dog will need a pup that weighs at least 30 pounds (preferably 35 or more), is at least one year old, and is in good health. As for the humans, you should be fairly comfortable on cross-country skis. 

Some places will have gear for rent, but the basic skijoring equipment is pretty straightforward. It’s an especially good idea to stock up on the essentials if you plan on forging your own path at a dog-friendly park with multi-use trails that haven’t already been groomed specifically for cross-country skiers.

Care to try your hand? There’s a skijoring spot with your name on it, whether you’re in the market for a cushy guided experience or just want to hit the trails with Fido by your side. Here’s where to go.

man holding dog in snow
There's a reason they call them man's best friend. | The Great Northern

Greenough, Montana
Equestrian skijoring, like equestrian everything, is a bit more prevalent in Montana than it is in most other places around the country. No matter their skill level, guests at the green o—a dreamy, adults-only retreat on the southern edge of the Resort at Paws Up’s 37,000-acre wooded grounds—can try horse-led skijoring as one of the many all-inclusive activities.

Truckee, California
This cross-country wonderland welcomes skijorers and their canine companions weekdays through March 15. Grab a doggy day pass ($15) before heading out, then set your sights on eight different dog-friendly trails with cheeky names like Downward Dog and Doggy Dipper. Just one pup per person in these parts, so make sure to choose the bestest boy.

Tabernash, Colorado
For those of you wanting to try skijoring with a dog (yours) rather than a horse (any), this ranch will rent you doggy-skijoring equipment for $30, plus provide regular clinics to improve your skills. Once you’re strapped up and ready to slide, you can soak up the scenery from the many miles of trails nestled around the base of Colorado’s Continental Divide.

two people skijoring with dogs
Just you, Spot, and the snow. | The Loppet Foundation

Minneapolis, Minnesota
As long as you can supply your own skis and dog—and you’re the proud owner of either a Natural Ski Pass or an All-Access Ski Pass—you can have at all the natural snow trails inside Wirth Park plus the Chain of Lakes, Columbia Golf Course, and Hiawatha Golf Course. Up for a challenge? Consider registering for the park’s 10K, 5K, and 3K skijoring races, held this February as a part of the City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival.

Minocqua, Wisconsin
30 different trails crisscross this beloved Wisconsin mainstay, including a dedicated six-kilometer loop reserved just for skijorers. And if you’re not quite ready to slide off on your own, you can pop into the Minocqua Winter Park Ski Shop and sign up for a beginner’s class courtesy of the fine skijoring folks at Nicolet College.

Gilford, New Hampshire
Have dog, can skijor at this 2,400-acre New England hideaway, where the resort’s Skijoring Team of Educators will lead you and your four-legged pal in a skijoring adventure complete with gear available for rent onsite. Stop by the Gunstock Nordic Center XC to book an expert lesson, and you and Fido will be mastering the sport in no time.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Kastalia Medrano is a New York-based journalist and avid traveler. Follow her @kastaliamedrano.
Meredith Heil is the editorial director of Thrillist Travel.