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One phrase you don’t expect to hear while skiing or boarding is ‘Gee up!’ Unless you decide to get towed along by a horse. Pete Coombs will try anything once...
ski joering in la clusaz credit mark borland
‘Yes, I suppose it is like wakeboarding, except that when you fall over on the water, the boat stops for you,’ was my first bit of advice on ski joering, from a friendly shop assistant in the French resort of La Clusaz. This was closely followed by my second bit of advice.

‘No, you shouldn’t try it on a snowboard, that would be silly!” he added, along with a dismissive Gallic shrug and a shake of his head.

Never one to deny my inner silliness, I wasn’t deterred. Ski joering is becoming a staple extra-curricular activity in many resorts. The word is derived from the Norwegian ‘skikjoring’ which means ski driving. Apparently it was an Olympic demonstration sport in 1928.

The next day I met Julian, who is a prime example of a master looking like his animal. ‘These are Fjord horses, they originate from Norway,’ he explained, from inside a big furry hat that looked like the horses’ manes.

‘Yours is called Quick.’

He started to explain how to hold on to the flexible frame that trailed the horses, and how to steer, when his phone rang. After a few thousand yes’s, Julian hung up, and explained that it was a Saudi prince who was due to go ski joering that afternoon.

The phone call from the prince had broken the explanation of how to actually steer, and more importantly, how to stop the beasts, and just as I was about to raise the point, my horse took off without me. He didn’t go far, so unclipping my snowboard I slowly walked towards him, did a little bit of attempted horse whispering, and taking hold of its bridle, I turned and walked back towards Julian.

I needn’t have worried about trying to control my horse, as after taking off at surprising speed – this time with me hanging on – Quick took his place an inch or so behind Julian, who was being towed by the lead horse.

We were following a pisted walking/cross country ski area, and two things ‘quickly’ became clear: we were going a little faster than I liked or expected, and I had absolutely no control over my horse whatsoever. We stopped briefly on a narrow raised path, which gave Quick just enough time to empty his bowels all over the tip of my snowboard.

We soon accelerated off, me riding through the dung that had missed my board, before turning onto a purpose-built joering track, which was a sort of cross between wakeboarding and horse riding down a board-cross course.

The main problem was that the fine mesh sheet on the frame between me and the horse meant that I couldn’t see the path in front of me, so I couldn’t see or prepare for any bumps. The mesh however was vital, to stop the snow kicked up by the horse from hitting me above the waist, so I just kept my board dead straight and went with it, as any half-heartedness would have seen me hit the ground at speed.

‘I don’t like to take snowboarders on my group sessions, as they fall a lot. In fact you’re the first snowboarder not to fall off,’ Julian informed me, as we sped back to the stables.
I almost felt smug. Then I remembered I still had to wipe the dung off my board..

La Clusaz resort guide here

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