Ever Heard of Skijoring? Find Out All You Need to Know

Written By: The Planet D

Skijoring in Alberta is one of the most unique and fun adventures you’ll have in winter. What is skijoring you ask? It’s a bit like dogsledding but instead, you are on skis, and dogs pull you without a sled. And it is a great winter adventure that outdoor lovers will relish.

What is Skijoring

about skijoring white dog

Skijoring is a fun winter sport invented in Norway where cross-country skiers are pulled along by a horse, tractor or even snowmobile. Over time it’s been modified to where skiers can be pulled along by just about anything. During our time in Alberta, we were pulled by sled dogs while balancing on cross country skis.

Skijoring in Alberta

We met with owner Russell Donald of Mad Dog and Englishman, Sled Dog Expeditions at Spray Lake outside of Canmore. He and his dogs had pulled up in their moving kennels and were ready for a good old run through the snow. They were nice and cozy inside, but as soon as they were brought out, they were ready and raring to go.

The dogs were barking and shaking with excitement because soon they’d be doing what they do best. Running! Read more at: The Best Things to do in Canmore, Alberta

How Skijoring Works

about skijoring deb

Unlike dogsledding, Skijoring only requires two dogs to pull a human on skis. Many people can go skijoring with their own dogs who love to run. That is as long as the dogs are large enough and capable of pulling a human being.

It’s a great way for the dogs to get exercise while at the same time getting your blood pumping as you cross country ski behind them. All it takes is a harness and cross country skis and you are good to go.

skijoring alberta

Dave and I were never the greatest cross-country skiers. Downhill skiing is more our speed. A few years ago we went out for a spin on the old cross-country skis just North of Toronto and realized that it wasn’t really our best or favourite sport. We never did it again and when we were standing out on Spray Lake in Alberta, boy were we regretting that! Read more: The Best Things to do in Banff, Alberta

Brush Up On Your Cross Country Skiing

about skijoring dave

When Russell asked us how our skills were and we told him “intermediate at best”, he didn’t flinch. “Ok, we can work with that.” Luckily, what Dave and I lack in skill, we make up for in enthusiasm.

We weren’t going to let this skijoring thing get the best of us, so while they got the dogs ready, we practiced our skills on the lake. We fell a few times and the ice was hard so I was getting a little anxious about how we’d react to the dogs.

  • What if as soon as they take off, we crash?
  • Would we be spending our day doing face plants into the ice?

As it turns out, Russell had been paying attention to our skills and chose dogs to suit our abilities. Read more: 20 Adventurous and fun Things to do in Winter in Canada

Choose the Right Dog for your Skill Level

skijoring group

When it comes to Skijoring, it works best if you have the right dog. A skier that isn’t exactly great, gets the better more confident dog. That way they will not expect you to help them out so much.

We both got a very frisky set of dogs that were prepared to take care of us and make up for our lack of skill. They were so good that even when we fell, they tried to keep on running and pulled us along in the snow. As soon as our harnesses were hooked up to the dogs, they took off running.

All our anxiety and worry immediately disappeared as we felt the freedom of soaring across the lake. You may also like: 20 Best Winter Activities in Alberta

The Dogs Love Skijoring

dave controlling dogs skijoring

The dogs were running at full speed and we were skiing and it was the most fun we’ve ever had on two skis. They ran, and we laughed. Within a few minutes of taking off, Dave and I were both down on the ground. Dave lost his balance and went down quickly and I was right behind him.

Just because something is in their way ahead, the dogs don’t care. they keep on running regardless. They kept on running and went right by Dave which in turn caused me to crash right into him. It was a beautiful mess. All our four dogs got tangled together and yet they still wanted to run.

As Dave and I tried to get up, they kept running and jumping over each other causing complete chaos. It was hilarious. Check out: Where to Stay in Banff

Round Two

deb learning skijoring

The second we were back on our feet and got them detangled, the dogs took off sprinting. We barely had time to get our balance before we were on the run again.

My team of dogs tried to pass Dave’s team and whenever we got ahead, he made sure to try to pass me again. It was a serious race between the dogs. These dogs are competitive. Dogsledding Ontario – Your Ticket to Adventure in Canada

Whenever a dogsled owner tells you that his dogs love to run, they mean it. Sled dogs are born to run and by witnessing their energy and excitement, they are happiest when they run too.

Skijoring is fun!

group mountains skijoring

You can’t help but feel good when skijoring. Even if you are in the worst of moods, the dogs will make you feel good. They are so excited and happy that their energy rubs off on you and you’ll be feeling excited and happy in no time.

I know that we felt downright giddy during our entire tour around the lake. The more we fell down, the more fun we had. But once we finally got the hang of things, it was truly a blast.

The dogs were happiest once we caught on because they could keep running for longer periods and we were happiest because we actually had the chance to feel what it was like to be pulled effortlessly by sled dogs. It felt like we were waterskiing.

We liked it, we really liked it!

We had a camera crew with us and as they watched us fall and sprawl across Spray Lake, they told us they were worried that we were having a miserable time.

Imagine their surprise when we circled back with the big grins on our faces telling them, “You gotta try this!” So they did! And they loved it too.

If you get yourself to Alberta during the winter, you have to give it a try. If you love adventure and having a good time, we guarantee that you’ll like it too!

skijoring alberta canada

Skijoring Alberta Contacts and Information

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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25 thoughts on “Ever Heard of Skijoring? Find Out All You Need to Know”

  1. I agree with you. LOT of fun and amaze while walking through the ice. I love it. Blog photos remember me that. Really unforgettable experience.

    • It’s definitely catching on, we’re finding it offered everywhere we go and many people are starting to skijor with their own team of dogs. It’s great exercise for them. But you are the originators I believe yes?

      • That’s amazing 🙂 It’s too bad we’ve had a “bad” winter over here, very little snow… I’m not sure where it’s originally from actually but the names comes from norwegian, kind of means “ski driving”. Take care!

      • Thanks for the information Lucy that is so cool to know! You can have some of our winter if you like? Ontario and Alberta have had epic winters.

    • We hadn’t heard of it either. It’s hilarious because now that we’ve done it, we’re seeing it offered everywhere. I see now that it’s very popular and I can understand why, it’s hilariously fun! The dogs love it too.

  2. Yeah, here in Norway the word skiing is synonymous with cross-country, no doubt. It’s a very low-treshold, everyday kind of activity. And skikjøring (means ski-driving, btw) is popular with dog owners. Glad you had fun 🙂

    • Hey, thanks for the translation. That totally makes sense. Yes indeed, you are the tops when it comes to skijoring, I remember watching the Olympics (on TV) in Norway and they did a spotlight on the culture of cross country skiing. It’s definitely in your blood. I can understand why people started using their dogs, not only is it great fun, it’s great exercise for the dogs.

  3. I too love winter as I was born in Switzerland in the Alps, and believe me it gets cold there and there are so many activities going on during winter, even at school they teach to ski, though as I’m growing older I can’t take the cold as much as I used to, not sure why, must be the age.

    • Yes indeed, Switzerland gets cold, especially in the Mountains! I love how your country and culture embraces the outdoors, more people should follow Switzerland’s lead. Great schools you have that they teach you to ski. I remember we went on field trips and had cross country skiing in gym class, but I bet it wasn’t to the same extent as you. I think it’s a circulation thing, my toes don’t stay warm anymore and I’m quite sensitive too, but I’m dressing better now and handling the outdoors great. Thank God for technology.

  4. That looks like sooo much fine!
    I haven’t skid, ever, so I’d definitely spend more time on the ground than moving forward:)

    Everyone keeps telling me skiing is easier than snowboarding, though.
    Don’t know which I should try first:)

    • We suggest snowboarding. It is difficult at first, but it has a faster learning curve than Skiing. After a few times out on the board and once you get the hang of it, you can really start to look like a pro fast! It’s awesome to be able to give both a try though for sure. Have a great time when you go!

    • I know I replied to you about snowboarding vs skiing, but I also wanted to add, that even being on the ground is fun. We were sure we were going to be miserable and embarrassed, but instead, we just laughed and laughed.

  5. This is on my to do list for the winter. I am in Alaska for the winter and I’ve pledged to myself to enjoy the outdoors.

    • If you are in Alaska, you definitely have to give it a go. You will love it. You should head to Fairbanks and watch the start of the Yukon Quest too! It’s draws less attention than the Iditarod, but it’s just as long and far more epic. I’d love to see it and all those dogs…adorable

  6. It’s my first time to hear Skijoring and it’s a whole lot of fun! Really a true winter adventure. I might try that next year when I travel to North America. Thanks for the info.

    • Definitely give it a try Chanelle. I see that you are from Aruba though, so make sure to dress warm or rent some gear. YOu can get everything you need from ski outfitters, if you don’t own it. That’s the great thing about Alberta, if you don’t own the clothes, you can rent them rather than investing an arm and a leg for something you will use once.

  7. What a great adventure. I have never cross-country skied before but would love to try. I recently started downhill skiing and love it! I am such a dog lover that I would love just spending a day around the dogs and being outdoors!

    • Congrats on starting downhill skiing. Where’s your hill. If you have the hang of downhill, cross country isn’t too difficult to switch too. It’s less steady and there is a little less control, but we found it to be easy to switch between the two. So once you’ve mastered it, you can give skijoring a try, you’ll love it! The dogs make you feel so happy. Their excitement and energy makes you feel more excited and energetic too!

    • We did too, but suddenly you get the hang of it and it all comes together. Falling is part of the fun though. It’s a blast.