What’s Happening With Ski Joring?
Giddy-Up and Keep Your Distance, Pardner!
All right all you cowpokes and white-knuckled skiers, here are some answers to all those Leadville Ski Joring (LSJ) questions you’ve been asking this week. It’s year #73 for this Leadville tradition that dates back to 1949. And this year, like so many other events, the Grandaddy of ‘Em all will look a bit different in 2021. But in the end, the good news for competitors is that the races will be held this Saturday and Sunday, March 6 & 7 in Leadville, Colorado.
“Giddy-Up,” was the way LSJ organizer and competitor Duffy Counsell answered the phone yesterday as Leadville Today (LT) called to check on how things were coming together for the weekend. “Pretty good, pretty good,” Counsell replied. “With all the changes this year, there are bound to be some surprises. But everyone’s coming together to make it happen.”
In many ways, that is the central theme to the annual competition that brings horses, riders and skiers together for a one-of-a-kind Wild West Show that has been entertaining snow-bound Leadvillites and rallying the tourists to put a little coin into local businesses to help them get thru to the busier summer season for nearly three-quarters of a century. But, this year LSJ organizers had to add, “and keeping your distance” to their welcoming western tagline in order to get the final sign-off from county officials to even have the event.
Rider On the Course!
McWethy. McWethy Drive. Chief among the changes for the 2021 LSJ competition is the racecourse location. After city officials denied to permit the event, citing COVID-19 public health crowd concerns, as the fast-paced action can command a five-deep line on historic Harrison Avenue, ski joring organizers came up with an alternate plan.
A true Wild West Show since 1949, Leadville Ski Joring has not always been held among the canyons of Leadville’s historic architectural gems which line historic Harrison Avenue. Longtime LSJ competitor and volunteer, Tony Fox fills in LT readers on some recent racecourse history.
Tony Fox: Ski joring was brought to Harrison Ave in 1994 with the revival of the Crystal Carnival. Prior to ‘94, it was held for many years in various locations, including poverty flats and Poplar. I believe at one time in the early 50’s, it was held for a brief time on Harrison but was moved to the outskirts of town. I was proud to work with community leaders and many volunteers to bring ski joring back to Leadville’s downtown in 1994, but the fact that it has remained on Harrison for almost 27 continuous years is a testament to the community itself.
This year, the racecourse has taken a southwestern slide down to McWethy Drive. The course has been built starting at the southern end of McWethy Drive by the Presbyterian Church and will run north, taking the right curve towards W. 10th Street at the County Road 4 intersection, adjacent to the Evergreen Cemetery. It’s not a bad life-to-death race track when it comes to Leadville Ski Joring when you think about it.
Street Closures. Keep in mind that 6th Street will be closed at McWethy and West 4th Street is Leadville’s emergency services route, so keep this throughfare clear of traffic for public safety. It IS Ski Joring weekend, after all! In addition County Road 4 (the road to Turquoise Lake ) will be detoured at Evergreen Drive and access to and from County Road 36 (aka The Boulevard) will be limited. McWethy will be closed to be made into a world class ski joring racecourse from Marshall Duggan Drive on the south and James Street on the north near Evergreen Cemetery. Please see the map.
Ski Joring Live-Stream Information
One of the primary conditions to ensure the Leadville Ski Joring tradition would happen this year was to make it a no-spectator event. In order to offset that disappointment to fans and hopefully still drive some traffic into the local dining and drinking establishments, organizer Duffy Counsell has promised a live-stream of the event. During yesterday’s conversation with LT, Counsell said that they were putting the finishing touches on that arrangement and for fans to watch the official LSJ Facebook Page. Stay Tuned! This post will also be updated as needed.
And finally, while the event is not likely to draw the crowds it traditionally would on Harrison Ave, people will still be curious. So should you decide to venture towards the new racecourse to check out the action, please keep the following in mind
- Walk. It’s not far off from main street after a nice lunch at a local restaurant. Take W. 3rd Street; it’s a beautiful stroll. If you come in from the other side from West Park, walk the Mineral Belt Trail towards the racecourse. This non-motorized trail should provide a good vantage point for the action. The weather is supposed to be blue skies and sunshine for both days!
- COVID-19 Rules. People are asked to stay with their group, practice social distancing, and to wear face-covering when in public space in Leadville Today.
While the LSJ race action will not be happening downtown, businesses will be open and ready to serve you. Most restaurants are open with limited seating and hours and stores on Harrison Avenue welcome all you ski joring cowpoke shoppers! If you can pland ahead and park at some of the bigger lots in town and walk the six blocks with your group along w. 3rd Street or via the MBT on the north end of the action.
Mineral Belt Mayhem 2021
Starting last weekend and ending Sunday, March 13 is the 3rd installment of the Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Series. A 12.5-mile course along the beautiful Mineral Belt Trail with a little singletrack thrown in for good measure this is one of the local favorites particularly because of the mass-start on the LSJ racecourse usually built on Harrison Ave in downtown Leadville. But like everything, things are a bit different this year for the Cloud City Wheelers primary fundraiser.
“The sun is shining here in the ‘Ville making way for some amazing trail conditions!” Sterling Mudge Executive Director Cloud City Wheelers posted on the group’s Facebook Page. “The Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Series is the Cloud City Wheelers most important fundraiser. We can’t do our work without this series so we hope you join us for this tweaked edition.” Check out www.cloudcitywheelers.com/race for more details and register HERE. See you on the trails!
The Story of McWethy Drive