SILVERTON – There’s not a whole lot of difference between skiers and cowboys, Tarah O’Connor said in Silverton. Both enjoy string music and drinking in the wilderness, she said; “We just wear different clothes.”
Any similarities between the two identities were on full display Saturday at Silverton Skijoring, where horse riders pulled daring skiers along the a snow-covered Blair Street in front of a crowd of hundreds.
Dozens of skiers and riders paired and raced hundreds of yards, the horses pulling people on skis who hit jumps, collected rings and tried to cross a finish line with the fastest time.
O’Connor said she has a friend where she lives in Ogden, Utah, who skis behind horses. She’s never done it, but she rides horses and skis.
“It’s super-alluring,” she said.
Skijoring in Silverton began in 2010, just a year before Pete Sampson moved to the isolated town nestled in the San Juan Mountains. The crowds for Silverton Skijoring have grown each year, and the event brings thousands to the town that is “a little hard to get to” after snow falls, Sampson said.
“We’re used to it being on the quiet side in the winter,” he said.
Organizers of 2020 Silverton Skijoring event saw a flurry of donations late last year after considering canceling the event for lack of funding. It costs about $30,000 to operate the two-day event, and by mid-November, with less than a month to raise the money, organizers were $10,000 short.
More than 2,500 people have filled Silverton’s streets in recent years for Silverton Skijoring, according to the event’s website. The town of Silverton gave a $5,000 matching donation to ensure the event was a go.
Al and Max Lindaman said they’ve come for years from Las Vegas with their parents to Silverton for Skijoring – the 10- and 11-year-olds’ grandparents live in the mountain town.
The siblings were building a snowman in a storefront along Blair Street as skiers and riders raced behind a crowd of spectators. Max said it’s “really exciting to watch” – some people fall, and “it’s really cool” if a woman wins.
“They’re underrated,” he said.
Al said she and her brother built a “snowman army” at their grandparents place in Silverton a couple years ago.
“In Nevada, there’s not a lot of snow – so this is our only chance,” she said. “And, it’s really boring to stand.”