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High flying fun: National Finals Skijoring Races return to Red Lodge

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Posted at 4:19 PM, Mar 13, 2022

RED LODGE — There was a friendly and fun atmosphere in Red Lodge on Sunday as teams wrapped up a weekend of high-flying competition at the rodeo grounds for the National Finals Skijoring Races.

“You can make all of the plans that you want, but once that rope goes tight and that horse takes off, it’s kind of ‘let’s see what happens,’" said Duffy Counsell, a 13-year veteran of the niche sport.

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Duffy Counsell, a skijoring racer from Leadville, Colorado, speaks with MTN News before competing at the National Finals Skijoring Races in Red Lodge.

Counsell, 45, traveled nine and a half hours from his home in Leaville, Colorado to compete.

Not many sports require teamwork between two different species, but not many sports are skijoring. Skiers, riders and horses compete for the best time around a course that’s filled with hazards like jumps and slalom gates.

"You’ve got to be an outstanding skier and an outstanding horseman to do well at this. At the end of the day though, it’s some of the most exhilarating and some of the most expensive skiing I do. It’s at least a couple bucks a second," Counsell said.

Counsell said the travel costs are what racks up the bill the fastest. He said he can thank his kids for originally getting him into the sport.

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A bit of hang time after a jump is commonplace during a skijoring race.

"There’s a kids event and when they were four and six years old, they looked up at me and said dad, you’re a really good skier, are you going to try this? And I said, well yeah, why not? I guess give it a whirl. That set a hook that happened 14 years ago and I’m hoping I can do at least one more," Counsell said

Of course, competitors experience their fair share of crashes out on the track. But a crash doesn’t stop most from strapping on the skis again to give it another go.

“It’s worth it. There’s nothing else like it. The first time that rope goes tight, you’re either one type that says, ‘alright, I’m good to go. I can cross that off my bucket list.’ Or you’re the other type like us where it sets a hook and it sets it deep. Regardless of your age, I’m a good example. It’s exhilarating and you just can’t stop doing it," Counsell said.

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A skijoring team makes its way around the track at the National Finals Skijoring Races in Red Lodge.

Results from the weekend of competition can be found on the National Finals Skijoring Races Facebook page by clicking here.

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