HELENA — The second annual skijoring event initially scheduled for Saturday at the Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds was postponed due to lack of snow.
To host the event, the fairgrounds required a minimum of 4 to 6 inches of snow, and according to Mark LaRowe, co-Chairman of Last Chance, Skijoring and Race For The Gold, the decision to postpone the event was based 100 percent on the weather.
LaRowe and the fairgrounds have not targeted a specific makeup date for the event, but LaRowe said he would like to have it in late January.
The Helena event is a qualifying event for a minimum of 45 skijoring contestants for the National Skijoring Finals held in West Yellowstone on March 9-10.
Skijoring, which is becoming a favorite recreational and competitive winter sport, is a timed event that involves a rider on skis pulled by a horse down a track. The team of rider, horse and skier go through slalom gates and navigate through obstacle courses, while trying to gather objects in the fastest time without being penalized for missing gates or rings.
Last year was the first-ever skijoring event held at the fairgrounds, and according to LaRowe, the competition was a huge success.
"We were overwhelmed by the response," LaRowe said. "The event exploded on us in popularity, and 110 teams were competing. That became the largest skijoring event in North America. Last year, 3,000 people showed up over the weekend to watch (the event), which to our knowledge is the second largest skijoring crowd ever in North America."
Fairgrounds manager Kevin Tenney said the proceeds from 2018's event went toward routine maintenance of the fairgrounds.
"Any time we sponsor an event, we do it with the idea to make money for the fairgrounds," Tenney said. "What we make off an event keeps us open the rest of the year. I don't have the numbers in front of me but the number of participants we got last year as far as a skier to rider made it the biggest skijoring event in Montana. The response we got from the public was also better than expected our first year."
Skijoring has become another favorite growing recreational sport across the Northwestern region of the United States.
"It's taking off," LaRowe said. "In the last three or four years, there have been 15 new skijoring events in addition to the historical skijoring events that have been around for many years. It's becoming very popular and in demand in extreme winter sports. It's entertaining to watch."
LaRowe attributes the success they had in Helena in early 2018 to the sport offering people another recreational option during the winter months.
"I think people in Helena were ready for a change," LaRowe said. "They were ready for something in the winter to break the winter blues, and skijoring is a sport that people can do. They were pleased to see that sport come to Helena and embraced it."