Skijoring: a running horse pulls a skier or snowboarder along a snow track on a timed run. The skier has to collect three rings from posts at the side of the track, and has to go over three jumps.
James Purdy, who organized a skijoring meet in Cold Lake on March 12, says he is even more excited by the community’s response to the event which raised $20,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society.
“That event took a lot of volunteers, a lot of friends and family,” he said. “And then the Cold Lake Ag Society just blew my mind. They were just all-in, and the volunteer hours to put that show on were just incredible.”
Forty teams participated, each consisting of a horse, a rider, and a skier. And while teamwork is essential to a good run, the humans on the team each have their own specialty. Purdy says you’ll often see a snowboarder who knows nothing about horses teamed up with a cowboy who knows nothing about boarding.
Practice and communication make it click.
“If you’re the rider and you want to go fast, well, you can only go as fast as the skier. Otherwise you lose your skier,” he said. “But it’s funny, you can mix two people from these different groups who have no reason to be together.
“We had the whole spectrum from people who were there to compete at a high level, to first-timers just there to have fun. They knew they might not be competitive, they’re there just to have a good time and support a good cause.”
Purdy was diagnosed with MS 14 years ago. He has assembled a fundraising and support team called “MS Ain’t Purdy,” and the money they raised through the Cold Lake skijor event has put the team over the $600,000 mark for funds raised over the years.
A skijoring show in St. Paul a few years ago inspired him to do the Cold Lake fundraiser.
“They put on such a good show and there’s so much fun. I walked out of there and said ‘we’re doing one,’” he said. He had begun to organize an event for Bonnyville, but pandemic restrictions forced him to cancel.
“This winter, Cold Lake Ag Society approached me and said we should do it. And it was great, I was able to leverage all the stuff that I had done two years ago to get the [Bonnyville] event going,” he said.
“It was like, this is the coolest sport on Earth and it’s going to be a fundraiser for the MS Society. The whole community was just right behind it because they were so excited about the opportunity to do an event like this in their backyards.”
There was a lot of organizing, a lot of work, and then not knowing if the weather would be favourable on the day. “Yeah, I didn’t sleep for a few weeks,” Purdy said.
But apart from a cold breeze, it was a perfect day and an inspiring result.
“My biggest shout-out is to the volunteers and the community, and the companies that supported this. All the volunteers that are behind us and the community support are huge,” he said.