And we thought sled racing was crazy...

Question: What dog sport is more insane that sled racing?

Answer: Cross country skiing with a sled dog harnassed to your belt.

Also known as: skijoring

Another highlight of the Altitude 500 race meeting at Dinner Plain was seeing the skijoring.

Now, despite being a major snow bunny, I have to confess that my skills on skis are completely limited to downhill. Ok, my fitness level has an impact on my ability to cross country ski too. And trust me, if you are being towed along by a sled dog, you need to be fit to keep up with them, or they may pull you off your feet. Like this:

Not a good start, but luckily, all the other competitors managed to take off without stacking. In fact, the most successful skijoring competitors were those using more biddable dogs than huskies, like Trout, the husky x cattle dog cross: 

And this last one with a GSP, you may recognise from our lost glove incident in the six dog heats. P was actually the winner of the skijoring, as well as the 2 dog class in the sled racing. He has raced in New Zealand and Norway. This is what really skillful skijoring looks like:

Actually, he makes it look easy. Maybe I should investigate some fixed heel cross country skis...

One of the difficulties with any dog sports up in the Victorian high country (one of only three areas in Australia that gets regular(ish) snow) is that most of the high country is part of the Alpine National Park

Spot the problem with those little green icons? Yup, you can camp, canoe, cycle, fish, 4WD, horse ride, hunt, walk and ride... but you can't bring dogs in without a permit. Now I totally agree with keeping free roaming dogs out of National Parks, as there is a small risk of them doing damage to native wildlife, and many alpine marsupial species are already endangered. But sled dog teams are ALWAYS kept tethered and controlled. Either on stake out lines, or in crates, or with a harness or leash attaching them to a person. The risk of them venturing off the marked trails and doing any damage to wildlife is pretty much nil. However, rules are rules. So far, the only way dog clubs can run sled dog or skijoring on actual snow in Victoria, is by special arrangement with ski resort management groups, like the Dinner Plain community. In the last couple of years, sled dog teams have been allowed to operate as tourism attractions at Dinner Plain, and at Mt Baw Baw, and sled dog racing has also taken place at Falls Creek. One of the skijoring enthusiasts who you can see in my second video has been collecting signatures for a petition to have skijoring allowed in the Australian National Park as well. Fingers crossed that some day we'll be able to choose skijoring as an activity in the Victorian high country too.... If we dare!