A racing event that pairs skiers with horses is expected to draw more than 800 people to Saratoga this weekend for the community’s annual skijoring races.
The Saratoga Skijoring Races, now in their fourth year, will see competitors from across the Rocky Mountain West work during the the weekend to post the best time at the Buck Springs Race Track east of Saratoga.
Saratoga’s race has become one of the major skijoring events for the region, said race organizer Will Faust. In fact, online pre-registration for competitors has been closed because the early racing slots have been filled, he said.
“We have 100 racers in the novice division each day,” he said. “The town is full. It’s become one of the more competitive skijoring races in the country.”
Registrations will still be accepted on Friday at the Wolf Hotel from 2 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In skijoring, a skier is pulled by a horse along a track marked by slalom turns, jumps and rings hung from ropes that are to be collected by the skier.
Competition each day on the Buck Springs Race Track’s 700-foot skijoring track will feature teams broken into several different divisions, one for youths, one for novices and several “open class” divisions, based on the time in which the racers complete the run.
“The novice category, these folks are just out to do it for fun,” Faust said. “They’re just in it for the experience. It’s slower and they’ve got less competitive horses. We’ve got about 20 teams in that category.”
The teams in the “open” competition, however, are usually more experienced.
“That’s where people bring in the faster horses, that’s the more competitive one,” Faust said. “The skiers can hit 50 mph on the outside turns. That makes for some pretty fun watching.”
Racers are planning to come to Saratoga from as far north as Kalispell, Montana, and as far south as Durango, Colorado, near the New Mexico border, Faust said.
The cost to register is $25 per person or $50 per team in the open division and $20 per person or $40 per team in the amateur/novice division. There is no registration fee for those under 18 competing in the youth division.
Winners from each day’s races will win prizes, as will winners with the best average time from Saturday and Sunday’s races. Faust said the prize money will total about $11,000.
“We’ve got some nice belt buckles for the winners of each division as well,” Faust said.
Some 600 to 800 spectators are expected to attend the event, Faust said. The cost to attend the race is $5, although children under the age of 12 can attend at no cost.
Activities begin Friday with racer registration and a welcome party at the Wolf Hotel. Races will begin Saturday at 9:30 a.m. The day’s activities Saturday will wrap up with a concert by Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band. Racing will begin Sunday at 10 a.m.
Money raised through admission fees and contributions will be used to finance the Lions Club’s other activities in Saratoga, such as its annual Kids Fishing Day.