Dog days of winter

The sport of skijoring lets your pooch take you for a walk
Matt Villano

One part cross-country skiing, one part dogsledding, skijoring is a great way to see the Northwest in winter. Wind whips your cheeks, scenery zooms by in a blur, and the speed of your dog's panting is matched only by your own breathless exhilaration.

Essentials of this burgeoning sport are few. First and foremost, you need cross-country skis, boots, and poles for yourself. A special skijoring dog harness, towrope, and belt connect your pooch to your waist — Rover should be at least 30 pounds to try it out. Your dog learns to pull you and learns verbal commands — "haw" for left turns, "gee" for right turns, and "whoa" to stop. It's that simple.

You can give skijoring a try anywhere that dogs are allowed on cross-country ski trails, but the groomed snowmobile trails in Washington's Sno-Parks are particularly suitable. Who knew walking the dog could be so fun?

INFO: To learn more about skijoring in the Northwest, contact the Cascade Sled Dog Club (www.cascadesleddogclub.com). It costs about $150 to outfit dog and owner with skijoring equipment (try www.skijornow.com and www.chinookwind.com). Visit www.parks.wa.gov for a list of Washington's Sno-Parks.