The annual skijoring race in Silverton is expected to return this winter.
Pete Maisel, event organizer, said all insurance issues that arose out of the 2017 skijoring race – where three people were injured by a horse spooked by a low-flying drone – have been resolved, paving the way for the popular winter event to return President’s Day weekend in February. The event was canceled this year as a result of the insurance issues.
Now, the only obstacle for skijoring’s return to Silverton is the final push for sponsorship and fundraising. Maisel said the event’s target goal is $20,000, and so far, about $15,000 has been raised.
“Our biggest hurdle this year is getting enough sponsorship money,” he said. “It’s been a tough year, with the 416 Fire, the flooding, you name it, and businesses locally don’t need to be asked for money.”
“Right now, I’m really hopeful we’ll have enough to put the event on,” he said.
Maisel is also looking for volunteers to help. Anyone interested in sponsoring or volunteering can contact organizers at SilvertonSkijoring.com.
“People are always asking, ‘Are you going to have skijoring?’” he said. “But volunteers and sponsors are a key thing to get the thing going.”
The annual race is by far the most popular of Silverton’s winter activities, drawing 3,000 to 4,000 people to the small town about 50 miles north of Durango, he said.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but for Silverton, it’s overloaded,” Maisel said. “Restaurants and shops open. It’s a huge boost for Silverton in the middle of the winter.”
Silverton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director DeAnne Gallegos said that over the summer, there are about 24 restaurants and bars open in town, but in the winter, that number is reduced to about half.
“But for the business district in Silverton, skijoring is the absolute best and busiest winter weekend we have for that season,” she said.
And the benefit to the town isn’t only financial. Gallegos said: “Quite frankly, the energy and excitement it brings to the town, having cowboys, horses and skiers, is just something you don’t get to experience very often.”
Skijoring is a race where skiers hold onto a rope attached to a horse. The animal then pulls the skier through a series of gates and jumps on Silverton’s Blair Street.
During the 2017 event, a horse at the starting line became agitated by a drone hovering overhead, which witnesses said sounded like a swarm of bees.
The horse darted into the crowd, injuring three spectators. One woman suffered a hip injury that required extensive surgery, San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad said at the time it happened.
Authorities were unable to file criminal charges against the drone’s pilot, Matt Crossett, who at the time was a Durango resident.
“If he was 20 feet off the deck and in the horse’s face, then I think I would be charging reckless endangerment, but without that, if you read the wording of the elements of the crime, it’s just not there, and the DA agreed with me on that,” Conrad said in a previous interview.
Conrad said he notified the Federal Aviation Administration of the incident. The Durango Herald has submitted multiple federal open-records requests to find out if the FAA charged Crossett, but those requests have been continually denied.
Maisel said the starting area will be blocked off at this year’s event, and drones are not allowed.
Gallegos said there will be other events surrounding the skijoring race over that weekend, such as live music, a lantern festival and a casino night.
“Silverton skijoring is our largest and wildest event for the winter,” she said. “We will all be open and excited.”
firstname.lastname@example.org This story has been updated to correct the weekend the skijoring event is planned for in February.