Leadville infuses winter with adrenaline
summit daily news
The international excitement of the Olympics may be over, but in small-town Leadville, the adrenaline rush is just beginning.
This weekend, Leadville hosts its 61st annual ski joring races, where skiers, pulled by horses, reach speeds up to 58 mph as they fly over jumps, built right in the middle of town.
The joring folks are not your classically trained athletes; they’re more likely to swig a few shots of whiskey before clicking into their bindings than some healthy power boost. Apparently the elixir helps a bit more for the flat landings off man-made kickers. Ouch.
But, they do have to maintain some hand-eye coordination, as part of ski joring includes spearing rings in a timed competition. The shenanigans are so entertaining, even legendary ski film maker Warren Miller caught the action in a recent film titled “Children of Winter.”
Of course, Leadville’s mining folks weren’t the first to think of ways to risk their limbs all for the fun of it. North American ranchers heard of reindeers pulling Scandinavians as a mode of winter transportation. They upped the ante and started tying ropes to the saddles of horses, seeing how fast they could go. The crazy concept caught on, and now you can find ski joring competitions in at least five states, and a handful of countries.
This weekend’s Leadville competition includes four classes on Saturday and again on Sunday: the Open Class, for experienced competitive teams; the Sport Class, for beginners; the Legends Class, for experienced teams who are getting a little long in the tooth for the Open Class; and, new this year, the Snowmobile Class. The Open Class will feature a $1,000 added purse each day; the Sport and Legends Classes will each include a $500 added purse each day. The entry fee is $70 per team in the Open Class, and $60 per team in the Sport and Legends Classes. Teams must pre-qualify the day of the event to compete in the Open Class.
In order to pass the torch to the next generation, kids can also try their hand at ski joring behind a snowmobile for just $5 a ride at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
In addition to ski joring, participants can enter a number of sporty events within in the Crystal Carnival. The carnival is a nod to Leadville’s original winter sports festival, held in 1896. The festival highlighted a palace built from 5,000 tons of ice, cut from nearby lakes. The businessmen who created it hoped to draw people to town, since mining had busted.
Though the carnival doesn’t include an ice palace anymore, throughout the weekend, folks will compete in Nordic, snowshoe, mountain bike and sled dog races, as well as broomball. Younger folks can check out the children’s parade and teen snowshoe race.
All events are free for spectators; some require fees for participants. See the adjacent box for more details.
“When you live in the highest incorporated city in North America, you make the most out of winter,” said spokeswoman Mandy Gauldin.
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