It’s a Dog’s Life

In January, the St. Regis Hotel in Aspen rolled out a first-of-its-kind ski program in the Rockies: skijoring lessons in partnership with the local shelter, Aspen Animal Shelter. For $150, guests and their dogs can take a two-hour private lesson with Aspen Animal Shelter’s in-house skijoring coach and dog trainer Louisa Morrissey.

Left Fido at home? No problem. The executive director of the Aspen Animal Shelter, Seth Sachson, is an avid musher and skijorer (with his own team of seven sled dogs) and will pair guests with an appropriate loaner dog from the shelter. “We’re so happy to share the sport,” he says. “Off the slopes, skijoring is the time of your life.”

Skijoring originated in Scandinavia, where athletes are pulled on skis by a horse, dog or motor vehicle. When skijoring with a dog, both the animal and the human wear harnesses connected by a towline. While the dog pulls, the human powers through the snow with skis and poles, making it a team effort. At the professional level, the goal is speed.

Recreationally, it’s a great workout (for both man and beast), and a lot of fun. “Skijoring allows for the thrill of dog sledding without having to own a whole team of dogs,” says Sachson.

For the St. Regis’ program, Morrissey will lead lessons on the scenic trail around the hayfield at Cozy Point Ranch, a working ranch and public equestrian center located six miles from town. She recommends participants have a basic understanding of cross-country skiing (the sport is done on skate skis), and that the dogs weigh at least 35 pounds, as well as demonstrate the energy, stamina, and willingness to take part. Beginners will skijor with a single dog, although it can be done with more—Sachson likes to use a pair of dogs for the ultimate rush.

In the past, Aspen Animal Shelter has partnered with local hotels to provide kennel services, as well as loaner dogs for guests to take on strolls, and even keep for cuddling overnight at dog-friendly establishments like St. Regis. But this is the first time a resort has been interested skijoring. “We have quite a few dog lovers who work for the hotel who wanted to do more with the Aspen Animal Shelter,” says Sally Spaulding, a representative of St. Regis. “Given Aspen’s ski culture, it seemed a natural fit to offer something fun and unique like skijoring to our guests.”

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