by Scott Sacry
Cross-country skiing or mountain biking on a trail can be hard enough, now imagine doing it while being pulled by a dog that can run at 25 mph. That’s exactly what local skijor and bikejor Teresa Petterson does. Dogs pulling sleds have ancient roots around the world, and the sports of skijoring and bikejoring are growing in popularity in the states. Simply put, dog skijoring is when a cross-country skier is pulled by a dog or dog team and bikejoring is when a biker is pulled by a dog or dog team.
Teresa Petterson is a veterinarian at the Burnt Fork Veterinary Clinic in Stevensville and has been skijoring for over 15 years. She has always skied and loved dogs, so after watching a ski joëring race, she knew she had to try it, and when she tried it, she was hooked. She currently has five dogs that she uses for events. Brothers Oslo and Bjorn are German Shorthaired Pointers and make up his two-dog skijor team, while Oslo is the lead dog on his one-dog skijor team.
“It’s a team sport with your dogs,” Petterson said. “We live together and we train together and have a great connection.”
She recently competed in the Flathead Classic at Olney on February 26-27. The Flathead Classic is a northwest Montana sled dog race and non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of working sled dogs.
Petterson took first place in the one-dog and two-dog skijoring events, and was second in the two-dog bikejor and fourth in the one-dog bikejor.
“Some of the best runners in the country were there,” Petterson said.
“Four of them had qualified for the world championship, so I was super excited to win those events.”
In the two-dog skijoring race, Petterson’s team broke the course record. “It was a very technical class,” she says.
noted. “You fly downhill, navigate 90 degree turns, back and forth. There is a fine line between going fast and destroying.
The training required can be substantial.
First I have to train as a skier,” Petterson said, “then I have to train my dogs for strength, endurance and obedience. Petterson and his dogs are out most of the weekend and several times a week. “Yeah, we train a lot,” she said.
One of the things she was most proud of was winning the “Best Groomed Team” award at the Flathead Classic. “They didn’t even know I was a vet,” she said, “so it was a big honor.”
Asked about her future racing goals, Petterson said, “I want to have fun, but I want to be competitive. I race against much younger riders, so I want to do everything I can while I can still compete at a high level.
In the fall, she hopes to head to the Midwest to compete against some of the top runners in the country and see how she stacks up.
Several other Bitterroot Valley residents, many of whom were part of a group called the Bitterroot Mushers, also participated in the Flathead Classic. Brandi Williamson of Corvallis finished 6th in the four-dog sledding class. Jenny Howard of Hamilton was 10th in the four-dog sledding class, and Ryan and Jana Roberts were 9th and 11th respectively in the four-dog sledding class.
Jenny Howard, who started racing about five years ago, said of the event: “The Flathead Classic was a great event with a strong turnout. They do a fantastic job – they never disappoint. Howard also trains three or four times a week. “The location where we live in the Bitterroot Valley makes it a very accessible activity. It’s a beautiful thing to do,” Howard said.
For more information on the Bitterroot Mushers, go to bitterrootmushers.org and for more information on the Flathead Classic, go to flatheadclassic.org.