Extreme Skier Meets Cowboy

A Thrilling Event Gallops Into The Valley

What do you get when an extreme skier partners up with a cowboy and his horse? It’s called skijoring. Never heard of it? Skijoring has actually been around for centuries. The Norweigan phrase translated means ski driving or driving with skis.

More than 100 years ago, the city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, created a winter carnival to help its residents cope with cabin fever during the long winter season. That carnival is where Leadville, Colorado residents got the idea of pulling a skier behind a horse—but the sport needed to be a lot more exciting. Leadville created its own skijoring event to have faster horses and include jumps, rings, and other obstacles turning it into the sport we see today. Rocky Mountain Outfitters Owner Joe Loveridge thought it seemed only fitting to have an event like this in Utah.

Originating as a method of winter travel, skijoring today is primarily a competitive, high-adrenalin sport in which a skier is pulled by a horse and rider through a course consisting of gates, jumps, and rings. Skijoring appeared as a demonstration sport in the 1928 Winter Olympics and continues to be a popular event in neighboring states.

Soldier Hollow Skijoring

Rocky Mountain Outfitters coordinated the valley’s first skijoring event last winter bringing in teams from Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and, of course, Utah.

“I had seen it before and thought it would be a good fit for Utah with all the skiers and horse people here,” said Loveridge.

When Ashley Richards heard about last year’s skijoring event at Soldier Hollow, she just thought it would be “something fun to do.” The former high school barrel racer was paired up with a couple of skiers she had never met before and as a team they competed for prize money and a buckle. “By the second day I was in it to win it,” admitted Richards.

Richards pulled Riley Tucker, a coach for Sundance’s ski racing team, who also had never attempted skijoring. “It took a few times to figure out the rope,” Tucker said. “It’s fun and very similar to ski racing with things coming at you.”

The event is a two-day competition. The inaugural race consisted of 62 teams drawing a crowd of 1,500 spectators. Teams attempt to complete the 700-foot course going through gates and over jumps while collecting rings at a very fast pace. Missing one of the obstacles results in a penalty. The fastest time with the least amount of penalties wins the race.

“There are those that do it for fun and those that are more competitive—that race to win,” explained Loveridge. The competition has both a novice and an open category allowing anyone to participate.

“It was a much better turnout than we expected,” Loveridge said but expects this winter to be even better anticipating around 100 teams to participate in the 2018 event.

Richards will be there again pulling several different skiers. “I’ve had so many people that saw me do it last year say they want to do it,” said Richards. Richards hopes to pull the skiers she pulled last year too.

“It was awesome! I can’t wait to do it again,” said Tucker. He will be racing with Richards again, but plans on doing more preseason training. He admitted the prize money is “good incentive to have fun getting dragged behind a horse” hoping to collect it this time.

“I think the horse is the athlete,” Loveridge told Park City Television. “If you don’t have a fast horse, you’re not going to win.” Horses in this event are traveling at 25-30 miles per hour.

“There’s only one thing in charge, and it goes really fast,” said Joe Feller, a professional skier and skijoring participant.

Richards said she had the fastest horse there, but her inexperience may have cost her the buckle. “In barrel racing it’s about what you and the horse can do. I learned to be watching and anticipating what the skier was going to do. We really have to work together.”

After the results of the first day of competition, a Calcutta takes places allowing spectators and participants to “buy” a team, raising money for a non-profit organization.

“Last year we gave money to the National Ability Center,” said Loveridge. “This year, we hope to keep it local, giving it to a local ski or rodeo club.”
Be sure to catch the next skijoring event scheduled for Feb. 2-3, 2018, at Soldier Hollow. Register as a team, get paired up if you’re interested in skiing or riding, or come watch the thrilling, fast-pasted race filled with unexpected excitement.

What stands 11,749’ high, has a heart, a saddle, an emerald, a shack, and some goats?

If you’ve been in Heber for even a short time, you’ll know the valley’s pride lies in the great mountain that sprawls to the west where the sun settles each night. Mount Timpanogos creates a portion of the eastern wall of the Wasatch Front. Often folks claim we, here in Heber, reside on the backside of the great Timpanogos. We’d like to beg their pardon. They happen to be discombobulated, not realizing that we have the front seat to Timp’s right side. Of all the peaks in the Wasatch Mountain Range, the majestic summit is second in height only to Mt. Nebo. Each breathtaking foot is covered in alpine flora, fauna, and crag, while crystal clean water from white peaks, burbles over as falls, and meanders to rivers and streams.

Through The Year

Spring is when the falls of Timp and their gushing runoff are at their prime. Mount Timpanogos Trailhead in Aspen Grove, accessed on State Route 92, is the entry point to three sets of breathtaking waterfall hikes. Timpanogos Falls is made up of an upper and lower set of falls. Visiting both is approximately a 2.5-mile round trip hike. Stewart Falls and Scout Falls are also great options for late spring hikes.

Summer is the best time to beat the heat and get to the heart of the mountain. Timpanogos Cave National Monument leads tours deep into the geologic Timpanogos Cave System. In the depths of the cavern is a large stalactite known as the “Great Heart” of Timpanogos. Legends tell of two hearts joined at death to become one that now lies deep in the mountain.

Summer is also a great time for ambitious hikers and trail runners to reach the peak. But don’t forget your jacket — even in the summer months, the windy summit stays nice and cool. The trek begins at either Aspen Grove or Timpooneke trail. It careens through Mount Timpanogos Wilderness Area, where you may choose to take it slower and camp overnight, remembering there are no fires permitted. Another fun choice is to depart early and squeeze the full excursion into one day. These hikes are where you’ll discover the emerald of Timp — Emerald Lake. Just as a horse’s saddle is sweeping in shape, Mount Timp’s saddle is a sweeping field of boulders where the trail to the peak converges with the ridgeline. Keep your eyes open for the mountain goats, moose, and other wildlife among the profusion of wildflower colors. Marking the summit is an old surveyor shack.

Fall brings a chill to the air, and our trees take center stage. As the bright blooms fade, the deep hues of autumn steal the show. Be sure to take a drive. Throw in a picnic and your camera to make a day of the fully-paved, 20 mile Alpine Scenic Loop. Head out before October passes and our snow closes portions of the loop for the winter.

Winter may offer the best views of Mount Timpanogos from a distance. Adventure junkies sometimes choose to summit Timp in the winter with an ice ax and crampons. If you enjoy snowmobiling or snow biking, Wasatch State Park grooms 72 miles of trail throughout the winter months. They are also home to the 2002 Olympic Site contracted by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. This venue allows for Nordic skiing, a tubing hill, and snowshoeing at the base of Timp. Those of you who don’t feel like competing with yetis or Sherpas may choose other ways to enjoy winters with Timpanogos. Relax while you wind leisurely around the base aboard a railcar of the Heber Valley Railroad. Are you an artist? Find a perch in town to paint to your heart’s delight. Or, simply take it easy and get cozy with a warm drink while enjoying the view from your favorite place.

Whatever the season Mount Timpanogos with its high summit, heart, saddle, emerald, shack, and goats, is definitely worth visiting — even if it’s only from your front porch as you watch the sun settle behind Timps peaks.

Hikes:

Timpanogos Falls
1.9 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Stewart Falls
3.4 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Scout Falls
4.2 miles |  moderate  |  leashed dogs allowed

Aspen Grove Timp Summit
15.7 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs and horses allowed

Timpooneke Timp Summit
12.8 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs allowed  |  $6 fee, pay at yourpassnow.com

For kids:

The Junior Ranger Program
Available at Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Kids explore
the culture and natural history. There is an event every Saturday
at 10:00 am throughout the open season, May-early September.
Go to nps.gov/tica/learn/kidsyouth for more information.

Legend Of Timpanogos:

As with any good story, there are many variations to the Legend of Timpanogos. In fact, at least 12 recorded versions exist today. The legend is centered on the outline of a woman that can be seen in the peaks of the mountain, and the large stalactite called the “Great Heart” found inside the caves.

The legend is “Romeo and Juliet”-esque, featuring the Indian warrior Red Eagle and the beautiful Indian princess Utahna. While their exact roles and circumstances vary from version to version, the story goes that Utahna was chosen as a sacrifice to the gods to end the great drought. When she was about to jump off the cliffs, Red Eagle begged her not to end her life. Thinking Red Eagle was the great God of Timpanogos, Utahna went to the caves with him, and they fell in love.

One day, Red Eagle was injured by a wild animal — which proved he was human after all — so Utahna left to finish her sacrifice to the gods. After she jumped, Red Eagle found her and took her back to the caves, where it is believed their two hearts became one, forming the stalactite that is now called the Great Heart of Timpanogos. People say you can still see the outline of Utahna lying on top of the mountain.

(Courtesy of nationalparks.org)

For more information on Mount Timpanogos and Wasatch State Park visit https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/wasatch-mountain