Olympics / Skiing / Winter Olympics / Winter Sports

Skijoring: the one-time Olympic demonstration sport

A man on horseback, pulling a skier
credit: Mark Larowe

Speed skiing and ski ballet: two demonstration sports that featured at the Winter Olympics, never to return as full medal competitions. While both sports were relatively modern, there was one ski variant that featured just once at the inaugural Winter Games and it was called skijoring.

Skijoring (Norwegian for ‘ski driving’) is a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled behind a horse, dog, or motor vehicle but it started as a mode of travel for the Sámi people, the indigenous people of Sápmi (formerly known as Lapland). They used reindeer to pull them on their skis and from there, it became a winter racing sport. Skijoring featured at the Nordic Games of 1901, 1905 and 1909 and grew in popularity across Scandinavia in its reindeer-behind format. After a while, skijoring athletes in France and Switzerland started using horses and this format found its way across the Atlantic where, in the mid-1910s, it became a recreational sport in places like New York and New Hampshire.

But its boon came in the 1920s when it featured the Chamonix International Winter Sports Week in 1924 and then as an exhibition sport at the 1928 Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz.

The race was staged on day two of the Games, with a large crowd gathering to see Rudolf Wettstein, Bibi Torriani and Muckenbrün earn a clean sweep for Switzerland. The result was not included in the official Games report, however, and the medals awarded were not tallied in the overall medal count.

Though the sport never appeared on the Olympic programme again, silver medallist Torriani’s association with the Winter Games continued. One of Switzerland’s greatest ice hockey players, he won a bronze with the Swiss team at St Moritz 1928 and again at the 1948 Winter Games, which were also held at the Swiss resort. He then pursued a career in luge, landing a world championship silver medal in 1957.

via olympics.com

Nowadays, skijoring comes in three forms: dog skijoring, equestrian skijoring, and motorised skijoring and just this year, there are scheduled events in Poland, Canada, and the US. But will we see skijoring at the Olympics again? Three of its international organisations—Skijor International, LLC, and Skijor USA, Inc—are aiming for it as they try to unify, gain sponsorships and buzz, and mark the sport’s centenary with a place at the 2034 Games.

More on skijoring

* – These events occurred in the last few weeks

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