Bob Lundy, third generation Jackson Hole resident; Rod Everett, Jackson Hole Shrine Club president; and Kent Jaspersen, former ski joring rider, told tales about the unique winter sports of cutter racing and ski joring at the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum’s Voices of the Valley on Thursday, February 7 at 7:00 p.m. at the history museum, 225 N. Cache. This was a great introduction to the 42nd annual Jackson Hole Shrine Club Cutter Races on February 16 and 17, 2013, and the 1st annual Jackson Hole Ski Joring Races the following weekend on February 23 and 24. Both are fundraisers for the Shrine Crippled Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Cutter races and skijoring were a couple of many activities in the annual Winter Sports Carnival which started in 1932. Cutters were horse-drawn chariots which raced two at a time on Broadway Avenue in downtown Jackson in the early days. “Originated in Wyoming many years ago, cutter racing was started in the Jackson Hole area by John and Jess Wort, George Lumley, and Gibb Scott. Mr. Scott, in fact, was known as the ‘Daddy of cutter racing’” (Chamber of Commerce). Skijoring involved races pulling skiers or competitors on elk hides with a horse.
Lundy says in 1972 the All American Cutter Race Association approached members of the Jackson Hole Shrine Club to see if the club could sponsor a race. The first event had forty teams and twenty races, and the races were held on the Gibb Scott Ranch where Albertsons, Shervin’s Independent Oil, and Kmart are now. Later Paul Von Gontard graciously offered his land in Melody Ranch which once was the old highway, and today is used as an airstrip.
The sport of skijoring began several hundred years ago in Scandinavian countries as a way to travel during the long winters. Laplanders skied on Nordic skis holding the reins attached to a reindeer. In the mid 1950s, ski joring found its way to North America, where ranchers attached a long rope to the saddle horn of a horse that was ridden at high speeds down a long straight-away. The sport of equestrian ski joring became a highly specialized competitive sport, where competitors must navigate a course of jumps and gates, sometimes spearing rings. In other variations of ski joring, skiers can also be pulled by dogs, mules and snowmobiles.
On April 24th, 1999, directors from almost every major ski joring organization in the country rendezvoused in Jackson Hole to begin a process that would change the sport of ski joring forever. After several follow-up meetings, the North American Ski Joring Association (NASJA) was developed.