4:26am

Sun February 16, 2014
Around the Nation

Water-Skiing On Snow: Skijorers Aren't Just Horsing Around

Originally published on Sun February 16, 2014 10:44 am

Terri Moitozo, 52, kicks her boots into her downhill skis in Rochester, N.H. Odd thing is, she's 30 miles from any mountain.

"Combining two things I love, skiing and horses," she says. "I'm excited!

Moitozo doesn't need gravity to fly across the snow — that's what her horse, Friday, is for. That, and her buddy Nick Barishian, who's riding Friday.

"He's my horse husband," she says, pointing to Barishian. "My regular husband doesn't do the horse stuff, so you gotta hire out."

Moitozo and others are learning equestrian skijoring; other kinds of skijoring involve skiers pulled by sled dogs, poodles, even motorcycles. It looks like water-skiing on snow.

Skijoring had its moment of glory back in 1928, as a demonstration sport at the Winter Olympics. That was the last time the sport was celebrated on the world stage. Now skijoring enthusiasts are trying to bring this unusual sport back.

Geoff Smith, president of the North East Ski Joring Association and a competitive skijorer, travels to sanctioned races from Montana to Quebec to New Hampshire. On an equestrian skijoring course, skiers weave between gates, fly over jumps up to 8 feet high and collect rings dangling in midair. Skijorers race for time, hitting speeds up to 40 miles an hour. For every ring a skijorer doesn't carry across the finish line, two seconds is added to the raw score; missing a gate or jump adds five seconds.

Before Moitozo can try this out in the snow, she and 10 or so other newbies gather around Smith for instruction. In a chilly barn, horse and rider trot around Smith, who issues instructions, like: "Another good safety tip is not to let the rope get underneath the horse's tail, 'cause that causes a rodeo."

Duly warned, Moitozo and Friday head out. Friday gallops ahead, pulling Moitozo along by a rope. They fly over three ski jumps, past six rings that she reaches out to grab before reaching the finish line.

Moitozo thinks it went well.

"That is just fun! It's water-skiing on snow! It's the best!"

Not surprisingly, Moitozo and Friday have already signed up for their first sanctioned skijoring race — and Moitozo says she's recruiting her friends.

Copyright 2014 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.nhpr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Skijoring may not be a sport you've heard of but it is indeed a sport, a kind of cross-country skiing but pulled by a horse, a dog or a snowmobile. Skijoring had its moment of glory back in 1928 as a demonstration sport at the Winter Olympics. That was the last time the sport was celebrated on the world stage. Now, skijoring enthusiasts are trying to bring it back. New Hampshire Public Radio's Emily Corwin has more.

EMILY CORWIN, BYLINE: Fifty-two-year-old Terri Moitozo kicks her boots into her downhill skis. Odd thing is she's 30 miles from any mountain.

TERRI MOITOZO: Combining two things I love, skiing and horses. I'm excited. I'm excited.

CORWIN: Moitozo doesn't need gravity to fly across the snow. That's what her horse, Friday, is for and her buddy Nick Barishian, who's riding Friday.

MOITOZO: Yeah, he's my horse husband. My regular husband doesn't do the horse stuff so you got to hire out.

CORWIN: Here in Rochester, New Hampshire, Moitozo and others are learning equestrian skijoring. Other kinds of skijoring involve skiers pulled by sled dogs, poodles, even motorcycles. It looks like waterskiing on snow. Only with equestrian skijoring, there are obstacles.

GEOFF SMITH: I'm the president of Northeast Skijoring Association. OK. Who else needs a harness?

CORWIN: Geoff Smith is a competitive skijorer. He travels to sanctioned races from Montana to Quebec to New Hampshire. Smith's wife rides the horse that pulls him 40 miles an hour over jumps eight feet high. They race for time.

SMITH: And then every ring you drop or you don't carry across the finish line, they add two seconds to your raw score, and every gate that you miss or jump you don't take, it's five seconds added to your score.

CORWIN: Before Terri Moitozo can try this thing out in the snow, she and 10 or so other newbies gather around Smith for instruction. In a chilly barn, horse and rider trot around Smith who issues instructions.

SMITH: Another good safety tip is not to let the rope get under the horse's tail.

CORWIN: Duly warned, Moitozo and Friday head outside.

MOITOZO: All right, Friday, my friend.

NICK BARISHIAN: Are you ready, Terry?

MOITOZO: I'm ready.

BARISHIAN: All right. Go, go, go.

CORWIN: Friday gallops ahead, pulling Moitozo along by a rope.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

CORWIN: They fly over three ski jumps...

MOITOZO: Before I lose it.

CORWIN: ...past six rings she reaches out to grab...

MOITOZO: Left.

CORWIN: ...to the finish line.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

CORWIN: How'd it go?

MOITOZO: Awesome. That is just fun. It's waterskiing on snow. It's the best. Oh, my God. That's awesome.

CORWIN: Not surprisingly, Terri Moitozo and Friday have already signed up for their first sanctioned skijoring race. And Moitozo says she's recruiting her friends. So Geoff Smith's efforts to grow this unusual sport may be gaining momentum after all. For NPR News, I'm Emily Corwin in New Hampshire.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.