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The snow will fly as hooves and skis race across the track during the first skijoring event at the Days of '76 Rodeo Grounds on Thursday.

"Skijoring" (derived from the Norwegian word for "ski driving") is a winter sport in which a person on skis is pulled by dogs, a vehicle, or, in this case, a horse.

The proceeds will go toward the Black Hills Ski Team's Youth Alpine Race Program.

"We wanted to do something that could tie the ski community and the ranching community together," said Yolonda Long, event coordinator. "We'd talked about doing a cowboy downhill like they do in Denver, but we did a quick poll and everyone wanted skijoring, and we thought it'd be great."

The event will see 40 participants pulled by 40 horses, with each contestant bringing their own horse. Each team will make two runs, one match run and one draw run.

This will be followed by a short-go for the final 12 teams. Additionally, each team will be auctioned off to attendees, with an audience member who picks the winner earning the pot. 

"It's another way to help support the event and win a little money yourself," Long said. "It's definitely one of the most fun aspects of the event."

Each skier will follow specific safety guidelines provided by Skijoring America, who have helped design the course.

"Everyone here has experience with horses, so they should be safe," Long said. "It helps to have Skijoring America assisting us."

Long noted that though speeds vary based on the tracks and horses participating, the event is a high-adrenaline one.

"Some of these horses can really move," Long said. "We're hoping to have three jumps set up, too, as long as the course is the appropriate length. We should have at least two."

Either way, Long said the event should be a highly exciting one, and that she hoped to be able to make skijoring an annual event for the Black Hills Ski Team.

"I think it's just an exciting event," Long said. "You see the speed of the horses, the skiers jumping off stuff. It's a good time."

Tickets for the Skijoring event will be sold at the door. Those interested in sponsoring the event or purchasing VIP seats should visit bhskiteam.com.

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Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or max.oconnell@rapidcityjournal.com

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