By Mark Esper
The Silverton Town Council had one thing to say Monday night about a proposal to bring a skijoring event to downtown Silverton on Feb. 6 and 7: Giddyup!
Skijoring is a mix of skiing and cowboy skills. A horseback rider and skier team up and run as fast as possible straight down a 250-yard snowpacked course, in this case on Blair Street from 14th Street to a little south of 12th Street.
The skier is required to go over three jumps and gather six rings before crossing the finish line. The fastest, cleanest ride wins.
Organizers say it's a great spectator sport, and in this case, the watching is FREE!
“This is a fast and furious event,” said Rob Conaty of Durango, who is organizing the event as a member of what he calls the Silverton Skijoring Committee.
Conaty said skijoring is one of the “wildest winter events” ever devised.
“It’s where the Wild West meets the skier,” Conaty said. And that’s why he thinks it’s a perfect fit for historic downtown Silverton.
Conaty said skijoring in Durango hasn’t been conducted for a few years now “and the energy just kind of moved to Silverton.”
He said he hopes to see it become an annual tradition here, as it has become in Leadville.
Conaty said he hopes to have some 20 professional skijoring teams ride into Silverton for the event, and novices are invited to form their own teams.
All it takes is a rider, a skier and a horse.
“The novices don’t have to go off the big jumps,” Conaty said, noting jumps as high as 6 feet will be featured on Blair Street for the pros.
“The skiers will be flying 50 feet or so. The horses will reach speeds of 40 miles per hour and the skiers may be going as fast as 50,” Conaty said.
“It’s a great spectator sport,” Conaty said. “There are bound to be lots of spills and thrills.”
And the event is free to spectators.
The Town Council on Monday night approved the temporary closure of Blair Street for the event. Town Clerk Brian Carlson said no concerns have been raised by business owners or residents of that stretch of street.
“All is quiet on that front,” he said.
And he said town officials have contacted Sheriff Sue Kurtz about the event. Her only concern was to emphasize to spectators and participants that the open container law will be enforced.
Conaty noted that Silverton resident Pete Maisel has been spearheading efforts to organize the event.
Conaty said portable stalls will be brought in to board the horses through Silverton’s cold nights.
Conaty said there will also be events for kids.
He said skijoring enthusiasts in the Four Corners region are glad they have a place to ride again.
“They haven’t done this for three years in Durango,” Conaty said. “People went different ways. So people are pretty excited that they’re having skijoring again. It has a lot of potential for years to come.”
When: Saturday and Sunday. Feb. 6 and 7. Starting time is 11 a,m. for Saturday and 10 a.m. for Sunday. Pre-registration will be at the Brown Bear Café from 8 to 9 a.m.
Where: Notorious Blair Street
Information: Rob Conaty, (970) 769-4825.