Sheridan Creates New Winter Tradition

Mar 1, 2019

The winter in Northeastern Wyoming isn't exactly known for attracting large amounts of tourists. But that's where Shawn Parker, the executive director for Sheridan Travel and Tourism, saw an opportunity.

"The bulk of our tourism is of course during the summer. We see so much traffic people going to Yellowstone and other national parks," Parker said. "We have a really great winter recreation scene for cross country skiing and snowmobiling, but it pales in comparison to our size in the summer."

Parker said they picked the slowest month and weekend for tourism and decided that's when they would create something to do.

This year Sheridan hosted its first-ever winter rodeo with a skijoring competition to bring some excitement and visitors to the town.

Parker had some help thinking of an event the town could put on. Hans Mercer, Sheridan's city engineer, had participated in a skijoring competition in Sundance and thought it could be something Sheridan could put on.

From there, Parker and many people in Sheridan worked together to create a skijoring competition.

"We just thought it was the perfect way to combine the Western heritage of Sheridan and the outdoor sporting community that we have here, too," said Bailey McClean, who also works for Sheridan Travel and Tourism.

Over 2,000 people showed up on the day to watch and compete in the skijoring competition. It was the largest sanctioned skijoring race so far this year in the U.S.

"It's quite the display. We're watching 106 skijoring teams-which consist of a rider, horse and, of course, a skier- barrel down a course made here in our downtown core on Broadway Street," Parker said.

In skijoring, the skier holds onto a rope as the horse runs down the course.

Parker said the course was one of the biggest challenges they faced in putting the event together. It took 400 dump truck loads of snow to build the 800-foot-course on one of Sheridan's main drags. It had jumps, gates, and rings skiers had to grab as they made their way down.

Many of the people who worked to set up the festival and those who competed had never done or even seen skijoring before.

McClean was one of those people. She brought her horses out for the day and competed as a rider.

Parker and McClean said that the competition wasn't just a way for residents and visitors to get out during the winter. It was a good way to get horses out of the barn.

"Sheridan has an incredible equestrian history, and there's a lot of people out here with ranches that ride every single day," Parker said. "They're itching to get their horses out for a run even in the winter time."

Parker said he is hopeful the town has created a new winter tradition.

"I'm seeing people I haven't seen all winter," Parker said. "I wanted to focus on a family-friendly event to draw people into town, to give them something to do, and it looks like that's exactly what we got."