Coeur d'Alene man takes winter sport hobby to international competition

SPOKANE, Wash. - A Coeur d'Alene man will take what began as a way to exercise his dogs in the winter months and compete later this month on the international skijoring stage.

What is skijoring? If you were a northern European, you'd probably already know. For the rest of us, to skijor is to travel on cross-country skis, being pulled by a horse or dog.

In this case, it's dogs. And, the man skiing behind is Dan Hanks, who grew up in Alaska, but has spent the last 20 years in Coeur d'Alene.

"I really just got into it because I needed the exercise," Hanks said. "I have a Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd. They're high-energy dogs. If they don't get enough exercise, they get into trouble, they get into mischief."

Hanks skis the trails on Mount Spokane and throughout the Inland Northwest. He never imagined this winter hobby would take him where he will go later this month: to the World Skijoring Championships in Ontario, Canada.

"We're on the U.S. National Team and we're selected to go to the world championships," Hanks said. "We'll be competing in a one-dog event and a two-dog event."

His teammates for the event include Border Collie Lucky, who is three. Hanks said he'll do any job you give him, from frisbee to agility competitions. Australian Shepherd Louie apparently lives for this winter event.

"He doesn't care about anything else," Hanks said of Louie, who barks as soon as he gets out in the snow. "He just wants to eat his food and skijor and go to sleep. That's Lucky's day."

The newest member of the team will pull Hanks in the one-dog competition. Only together a few months, the Alaskan Husky-Greyhound mix named Mountain Man could prove to be the star of the show.

"He looks basically like a giant, strong Greyhound," Hanks said. "His siblings have already won the world championships in sled dog events."

Hanks knows he has stiff competition on the international level, specifically from competitors from places like Norway and Finland. For him, it's more about having fun and competing in something he loves to do.

He hopes to watch the sport continue to grow in our region and more skijorers to keep him company on the trails at Mt. Spokane.

"If you come up to Mt Spokane on a weekend, you've got hundreds and hundreds of skiers out there," he said. "I guarantee every one of them has a lab or some dog at home that's just dying for exercise."

If you want to know more about the sport or try it for yourself, check out the Spokane Nordic Ski Association, which offers clinics and equipment rentals. http://www.spokanenordic.org/skijoring

Melissa Luck
Assistant News Director
KXLY4 News
(509) 220-6573