Ask any dog, and they’ll tell you that there’s nothing better in life than playing in the snow — rolling in it, running in it, jumping in it, and eating it. And skijoring — the simple and easy Scandinavian sport where you cross-country ski with your dog towing you along — also gets tails wagging. It’s an outdoor winter exercise for skiers and their best friends, and you don’t have to travel to Norway: There are skijoring opportunities right in our neck of the woods.
“It’s really popular and getting huge,” says Meg Mizzoni, past president of the New England Sled Dog Club, the oldest running sled dog club in North America, dating to 1924. “And in New England, we have some of the top skijorers in the world.”
Basically, any dog can do it, says Mizzoni. “It’s so great for the dog and people, too. You’re outside working with your dog and doing something your dog absolutely loves.” But, she says, it’s up to the dog. “Like the old adage, ‘You can’t push a rope.’ ” Still, what dog doesn’t love a snow day?
Skijoring equipment is relatively inexpensive and available at several sites like Mountain Ridge in Maine (www.mtnridge.com), says Mizzoni. The dog wears a lightweight harness and the skier has a skijor belt that “kind of hugs your butt and goes around your waist,” she says.
Here are some solid skijoring spots in New England.
Skijoring has been offered at this resort in Gilford, N.H., for 15 years, with about 31 miles of groomed trails for winter activities. And skijoring is taking off. “Growing like a spring puppy,” says Alex Templar, Outdoor Center manager.
In fact, he says, the sport has become so in demand, “We are looking to create small meetup groups that can potentially go out and skijor together.”
Lessons are also offered at the resort by instructor Jane Carpenter. “We do hope that our renters have had a lesson,” says Templar. “Friends don’t let furry friends pull them all over the forest.” Lessons are by reservation daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And you can rent the harnesses and skis at the resort, too.
Visit www.gunstock.com or call 603-293-4341 x192 to reserve lessons.
Dog Days is the name of the skijoring trail loop here in Bethel, Maine. The trail is a little more than half-a-mile, open to the public and run by nonprofit group Mahoosuc Pathways (with support from The Bethel Inn Resort, Bethel Outing Club, and Gould Academy). Trail passes are $18 for adults, $15 seniors and youth; skijoring equipment is not available to rent, you must bring your own. At the end of a snowy day of skijoring, you can curl up at the inn with your worn-out pooch; book the Bed & Breakfast Resort Getaway for Two (people), which includes accommodations, trail fees, health club, and saunas; cost $270 inclusive per night including pet fees. www.bethelinn.com
This property of The Trustees in Windsor shows off winter with 24 miles of trails through the stunning Northern Hardwood Forest, including 1½ miles of groomed trail for skijoring on what is called the Dog Loop. And thanks to a high elevation (highest point is Judges Hill at nearly 2,300 feet), Notchview typically sees snow when lower elevation spots might get rain. There’s also a lodge with a cafe (think wine and cheese tastings) and where you can rent skis, poles, and boots, but not skijoring equipment. www.thetrustees.org/notchview.
Skijoring’s been offered at this Bretton Woods, N.H., resort since 2003. There are 6 miles of dog-friendly trails — open to nonguests and guests of the resort — but note that dogs are not allowed to spend the night at the resort. The trail ticket is $21 per day, and for $20 you can also rent ski equipment (skis, boots, and poles, but not harnesses or skijoring belts). The fully-groomed skijoring trails, which are known as the Deception System of trails, include popular routes like the Upper Honeymoon and Dartmouth. www.omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washington.
Laurie Wilson can be reached at email@example.com.