Crowd spurs on the competition at Leadville’s annual ski joring event
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the date the photos were taken.
On any given day, Harrison Avenue in Leadville is your typical, quaint small town street with historic buildings, local businesses and one stop light.
However, every year during the first weekend in March, Harrison Avenue is transformed as several tons of snow are laid down on the town’s main drag and snow ramps are built for the annual Leadville Ski Joring competition.
It is not long before Harrison Avenue is bustling with galloping horses with skiers in toe hanging on by a rope for dear life as they go over jumps and capture small rings.
This year’s Leadville Ski Joring competition, which took place on Saturday, March 5, and Sunday, March 6, marked the 74th year of the competition as it has been going on since 1949.
This year was even more monumental as it marked the return to Harrison Avenue after the competition was held on a separate street with no spectators in 2021.
The crowd this year was omnipresent with not a single inch unoccupied by a spectator wanting to get a look at the unique sport that is ski joring.
Participants and spectators came from all over the state and country in order to attend the 74th annual event.
Skiers in the competition want to be the fastest ones down the avenue while gathering orange rings and going over jumps all while trying to focus on not taking a fall or losing a grip on the rope.
The competition had three separate divisions in the open, sport and snowmobile, with the open being the most competitive among the others.
After snow flakes fell in the early morning hours the skies opened up in Leadville for perfect winter ski joring conditions.
The open division started off the competition at the crack of noon with one of the legendary members of Colorado ski joring lore, Bruce Stott of Frisco.
Stott has been competing in ski joring since an event was hosted in Frisco in 2000. Since then, he has participated in one competition for 22 straight years. Stott won the competition in 2021 and is looking to defend his title this year.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Stott is also the oldest athlete in the open division at 50 yeas old. Stott is definitely the veteran among the competition as he knows how to expertly go about his run and cross the finish line in a blazing fast time.
On Stott’s first run of five, people were visibly and audibly shocked at how fast he was moving down the street. Stott was pulled close to 40 miles per hour as he focused on grabbing rings and hitting the ramps square on so he could land the jumps cleanly.
Stott wasn’t thrilled with his first run but the crowd yelled his name and cheered him on as he was transported back to the start by ATV. Stott responded to the applause with a smile and waved at the crowd as he went by.
“I was the first out of the gate and that ended up being one of the fastest horses so far and I wasn’t quite ready for it,” Stott said. “I missed a bunch of stuff.”
Stott rebounded on his next couple runs though and had his best run behind a horse named Tank. Stott raced through the competition area this time gathering all the rings and perfectly executing the jumps.
Stott’s performance was enough for him to be near the top of the open division ranks heading into the second day of competition.
Stott helped set and build the course in the days leading up to the competition so he says seeing everybody compete on the course and spectators enjoying the event was special to him.
“The crowd is excellent, there were no spectators last year and this year they have been advertising it and it’s been incredible,” Stott said.
Stott said he could feel his 50 years in his back today but doesn’t plan on stepping away from the competition’s top division until he is no longer competitive.
In the sport division, Leadville local Yakov Foley took his first-ever ski joring run from behind a horse. Foley has been competing in the Leadville Ski Joring competition since he was 3 years old being towed by a snowmobile.
Foley, now a 17-year-old, is old enough and experienced enough to be towed by a high-powered horse. Foley’s first run couldn’t have been more memorable for the young ski joring athlete as he tugged down his hometown street at a rapid rate.
“I was about halfway through, I went off a jump and my left ski popped off and I thought for sure I was done and I looked down and I was still going,” Foley said. “I made it almost all the way to the finish line on one ski, it was pretty crazy.”
Foley fell right before the finish but that didn’t make his inaugural first run any less memorable for him or the spectators.
The hometown kid was welcomed with applause and his competitors congratulated him on his first run, back at the starting area.
“I kind of ate it towards the end, but it was an awesome experience” Foley said.
Stott and Foley will race again on Sunday, March 6, in order to determine the final standings in the 74th annual Leadville Ski Joring competition.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.
Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.