Fashion, food, craft drinks, and horse pulled aerial acrobatics on a ski or snowboard.
The Calgary Polo Club in DeWinton plays host to the annual Skijordue this weekend where the divergence of cowboy and skiing culture converge with a shared passion for speed and adrenaline.
“We just want to include as many people as we can, as many demographics as we can. We don’t want it to be about horse people or skiers or fashionistas or foodies,” said Graham Mitchell, who co-founded Skijordue with his wife Sam. “We want it to be about everyone and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve really focused on the local businesses, local beer, local sponsors, local people.
“Because if we hadn’t had their help we couldn’t have done this. The family that we’ve got now with people who’ve been chipping in free help and free advice and just getting it off the ground, it’s not something we’ve done, it’s something that has been a community endeavour.”
The event around the event is as much a part of skijor as the horsemanship and aerial acrobatics.
Fashion contests bring out the best in retro winter stylings while local craft artisans, including Turner Valley’s Eau Claire Distillery, serve up the food and drinks while everyone takes in highly skilled horsemen, skiers and snowboarders.
On the course Skijordue has competitors go through four disciplines – circuit, relay, sprint and long jump.
“The skiers come in as racers, they can do tricks,” Graham said. “You give them a rope with one horsepower and they think holy this thing is fast and end up with grins.”
Skijordue was borne out of the Mitchells’ passion for ski culture, the fondue, the aprČs ski, along with a considerable background in equine with Sam making her mark in the world of horse training.
A friendly gathering at the polo grounds in 2014 quickly spiraled into something much bigger.
“We invited our friends around which was only around 25 people here on the practice field,” Mitchell added. “Well their friends told their friends and pretty soon rather having 25 invited people we had 25 invited people and 60 gate crashers.”
The 2017 event attracted over 700 spectators.
After attending last year’s event former professional hockey player Chris Bruton just had to throw himself in the ring.
“Albertans, we still love the history of the farm and horses. The whole energy, how everyone dresses up, the atmosphere that comes with it is just second to none. There is no party like it,” Bruton said. “Sam and Graham put this together, you can tell they put so much into it. Now everyone is just gravitating, it’s very magnetic and it’s addicting.
“Once that kicks off it starts to grow organically by itself.”
Skijordue takes off at the Calgary Polo Club’s Ranch House on Feb. 10.
Proceeds from the event go to Prairie Sky Equine Assisted Therapy.
For more information go to skijorcanada.com
Updated – The article originally stated Feb. 3, but the event has been postponed to Feb. 10.