Ski Joring: A wild ride to watch on Main Street in Leadville

Ski joring on Main Street in Leadville, Colo.

Ski joring on Main Street in Leadville, Colo.

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LEADVILLE, Colo. -- On a picture perfect winter day in Leadville, with the snow falling, cute pooches snuggled in and fans perched in the perfect seat, the bets are placed, boots are buckled and the racing begins.

Snow replaces cars and Main Street becomes a ski jor run. Horses pull a skier around gates and over jumps.

Between obstacles they also must collect rings that are hanging by a magnet. Each missed ring is a two second penalty on their final time. A missed jump adds five seconds.

Anyone can enter the Leadville Ski Jor event, which started in 1949. Like 22-year-old Meredith Winkelmeyer, who lives in Buena Vista, and first heard about it when her coworker got seriously injured competing.

“I’m a snowboarder. I learned how to ski this week so I could do this,” Says Meredith.

But it’s nothing like skiing, really. Jason Decker skied on his college team and has been competing in Leadville for three years. “There’s gates and you want to go as fast as you can. That’s about the only comparison.”

There are legends like Jerry Kissell, who is in his 31st year ski joring.

But it’s really all about the horses.

Jerry says for a successful run you have to have a quality skier, with a very good horse and a horseman who knows what he’s doing.

Just like the skiers, some horses take a spill and others just aren’t interested in finishing.

The fastest teams win money, but for the kids watching from their parents' shoulders, the locals who know who’s who, and the cowboys,  it’s all about the show.

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