This year’s Showdown course combined creative terrain park design and elements of bank slalom with huge fire features, hot tub gap jumps, and the world’s first ever snowmobile backflip over a live skijoring race.
BIG SKY, MT, April 14, 2023 /24-7PressRelease/ — The Big Sky Skijoring Association (BSSJ) hosted their 5th annual Best In The West Showdown Presented By Delzer Diversified, Lone Mountain Land Company & RentBiz in Big Sky, Montana on February 4-5, 2023.
Western states have transformed horseback riding and skiing into a combined action-packed competition where teams of horse, rider and skier negotiate a 900+ foot course, in the sport known as skijoring. The horse and rider pull a skier or snowboarder through jumps and gates on a technically designed course while the crowd goes wild. The team at Big Sky Skijoring’s Best In The West Showdown has recently been pushing the envelope of competitive skijoring by pairing cutting edge course design, showmanship and elements of mountain culture never seen before.
“What we are doing with the Showdown, it’s a special place in time for skijoring,” said Colin Cook, 2 time national skijoring champion and head course designer. “We are reimagining what is possible. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to bring these ideas to life and put my signature on each course we make.”
This year’s Showdown course combined creative terrain park design and elements of bank slalom with huge fire features, hot tub gap jumps and more to create the most entertaining and progressive course in the country. Spectators were enthralled as each team of horse, rider and skier/snowboarder galloped, carved and aired through towering pillars of fire and over fan filled hot tubs enjoying their après fun before pulling up the slack and racing to the finish.
The highlight of the Showdown culminated with Cook’s team collaborating with the Keith Sayers FMX team to perform the world’s first ever snowmobile backflip over a live skijoring race. In their final run in the open division the team of Colin Cook (skier), Richard Webber III (rider) and Serge To Paradise (horse) put together a smooth clean run through the berms, jumps and flames just in time for pro freestyle snowmobiler and Winter X Games champion Willie Elam to hit the throttle and lay out a huge backflip over the team as they dashed through the finish line.
“This event was soo much cooler than I ever imagined,” said Willie Elam. “From the hot tub party gap jump, fire tower features to the teams of horses and skiers rallying through the course… I’ve never seen anything like it. I still can’t believe everything came together to flip over the race. We only had one shot and the timing of the skijoring team and the takeoff had to be perfect. We nailed it!”
Keith Sayers, freestyle snowmobile legend and owner of Keith Sayers FMX, was onsite with his team and family for the occasion. After working with Cook and his team to fine tune the takeoff and landing, Elam and Poirier warmed up with a few practice jumps before it was showtime.
“I’ve been around FMX a long time and can say this is definitely a first,” said Sayers. “No one has ever paired these two sports or backflipped over a live skijoring race. My phone has been blowing up with everyone sending me viral videos of skijoring and the jump. Collaborating with this skijoring team, our friends at the Big Sky Ski Education Foundation and working to create something like this that no one has ever seen before… That is what it’s all about. Myself and the team are proud to have been part of this and thankful to have the opportunity to do it with my family and friends back here in my home state. I love this place!”
This year’s Showdown gave me goosebumps, said Justa Adams, Executive Director of Big Sky Skijoring Association. “With it’s explosive combination of lightning- fast horses and daredevil-skiing and snowmobiling taken right to the edge. All held together by rope, guts and grit. Combine that with this amazing Big Sky venue and support of this community… We’ve got something truly unique. These elements all came together to inspire and thrill in a way I’ve never experienced.”
This year the Best In The West Showdown attracted over 150 teams with 4000 spectators cheering them on as they raced through the course on the south east end of Big Sky Town Center. The Showdown has made a name for itself due to its combination of progressive course design and style.
“I’ve been competing and part of the skijoring community for over a decade and I have to say the Showdown is one of the best events out there,” said Dennis Alverson, skijoring veteran. “Big Sky Skijoring has really leveled up their course design, production quality and showmanship to match the cutting edge of the skijoring scene. The current level of competition is breeding a whole new style of race team. You’re seeing off track thoroughbreds, master horsemen and horsewomen and champion skiers/snowboarders pairing up and pushing it. This is the future of professional skijoring and these guys are the ones building tracks and putting on performances that truly do it justice. As their team continues to mature and dials in their systems I have no doubt they will be the best event in the nation.”
There is nothing standard about The Showdown’s course because… Well, there is nothing standard about its course designer. Colin Cook clicked into his first pair of skis when he was 2 years old at the Missoula Snowbowl and never looked back. He quickly took to ski racing and rose through the ranks to compete at the highest level of the Junior Olympics. Many would consider this to be a full ski racing career and one to be proud of. For Cook it was just the beginning.
“I kind of caught my second wind with skijoring,” said Colin Cook. “The past 7 years of skijoring professionally has led to 2 national championships, a pile of prize earnings, a new found love of course design, and now a world’s first for the skijoring/FMX jump. What we are doing with the Showdown… This is just the beginning. I’m thankful for the support of my team and this community that has embraced Big Sky Skijoring as its own.”
“One of the reasons this race is a favorite amongst the competitors is because we put the safety of the horses first,” said Patrick McVey, Course Groomer and General Manager at Lone Mountain Ranch. “Rider input, snow conditions, temperature, and decades of grooming and equine experience go into every pass we make on that course. When it’s done, it’s done right. I take a lot of pride in that.”
When first watching the video of “The Jump” one might be fooled by the apparent grace and ease of the skijoring team racing through the FMX jump with the snowmachine flying high overhead. In fact it took quite a bit of training and preparation for everything to come together safely. Richard Weber and Colin Cook took great care to slowly introduce their horse Serge to the sounds and presence of the FMX team before building up to the jump. Once Serge and the team were comfortable with their new friends, Willie Elam and Mike Poirier went to work timing the skijoring team’s passes from the turn to the gap jump to line up the takeoff perfectly.
“I was proud to see Willie and Mike’s professionalism and character really shine through as they worked thoughtfully with the Big Sky Skijoring team to safely acclimate the horses and riders to the snowmachines and dial in the jump,” said Keith Sayers. “We are like no other FMX Show out there. The team of riders I have working with me are some of the best in the world, on and off their machines.”
Sayers’ closing comments about the quality and character of his team rings true, not only for FMX but for everyone involved in Big Sky Skijoring. Like most “overnight successes” it comes from humble beginnings, forged in the fire by passionate visionaries and given the chance to grow by the support and good will of its community.
The culture of this event is something special, said Erik Morrison, CEO of Second Season and one of the producers of Big Sky Skijoring. “It’s the inclusivity of it all. You have die hard dirtbag skiers/riders, cowboys, celebrities, tourists, and everyone in between enjoying the show together. Everyone is a VIP. The best seats in the house are anywhere with a great view of the course, a cozy fire pit and sharing a drink with some colorful company. That’s the Big Sky vibe we want to cultivate.”
Big Sky Skijoring is a non-profit organization created to bring the wild, western combined sport of horseback riding and skiing, aka skijoring, to Big Sky, Montana.
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