Skijor (ski-jur) is a Norwegian word that means “ski-driving” – that is, a cross-country skier utilizing a dog, or dogs as draft animals
Cross country skis come in two basic types – classic and skate. Skijor racing requires speed and skate skis on a prepared track are fastest. When skiing over partially groomed terrain or non-groomed terrain, the classic ‘backcountry’ ski is recommended. Metal edges are forbidden in races but if the edge is properly sharpened and maintained it will not cut flesh. Edges provide stopping control and the construction of the ski is much tougher. Backcountry skis have greater surface area allowing better floatation in deeper snow.
Check with ski clubs in your area for more information. Most clubs hold classes for beginners throughout the winter season. Good cross country skiing requires a lot of practice, patience and energy.
Start Slow. Keep it Fun. Kick your skis, not the dog. You must enjoy cross country skiing. If you don’t, you’ll never convince the dog that this is a good idea. Set aside the notion that the skier is being towed. The skier, like a good jockey, does everything possible to unburden the dog, allowing it to either reach its maximum speed or maintain a slower pace for distance. Stopping competently on skis is a must. Not being able to endangers the dog and yourself.
All dogs pull instinctively, certain breeds possess the drive, confirmation and strength to excel in sprint races while others displaying those same positive traits, plus thicker coats, wider paws and a tougher psychology are better adapted for distance. An average of 55 pounds is a good rule of thumb, but bigger in this case truly is better.
You’ll need a properly fitted harness for the dog, a tether line with a bungee section, a waist belt or climbing harness for yourself and a pack to carry gear and pooper-scooper bags (small trash bags or plastic newspaper wrappers work well.) Finally, be sure to brush up on trail protocol and go out and have some fun!