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Pictured: Horse riders go off-piste for Colorado ‘skijoring’ competition

Rider Janelle Uristal races down Harrison Avenue in Leadville during the two-day competition
Rider Janelle Uristal races down Harrison Avenue in Leadville during the two-day competition - Jason Connolly/APF

Skiers have transformed the main streets of a city in Colorado with the most unlikely of companions to compete in an annual “skijoring” festival.

The 76th competition in Leadville sees hundreds take to either the slopes or the saddle over one weekend to compete in the alpine-equine hybrid sport “skijoring”.

Teams comprise a rider on horseback and a skier who is pulled along via a rope to clear jumps and gates, and collect suspended rings. As they manoeuvre the timed course, two-second penalties are given for any missed actions.

The skiers can travel up to speeds of 40mph.

Skier Jack Plantz is pulled down Harrison Avenue along the snowy course
Skier Jack Plantz is pulled via rope down Harrison Avenue along the snowy course - Jason Connolly/AFP
Skiers at the competition test out the snow prior to the start of the 76th annual races
Skiers at the competition test out the snow prior to the start of the 76th annual races - Jason Connolly /AFP

The competition has taken place in Leadville every March since 1949.

Skijoring – meaning “ski driving” in Norwegian – is said to originate from Scandinavia, when people were pulled on skis behind reindeer to get around. It was then adapted into an adrenaline-fuelled sport within US mountain states.

Several other towns in Colorado and across the Rocky Mountains hold skijoring competitions typically following the same format, but Leadville’s race maintains a reputation as one of the fastest.

A woman in Leadville saddles up her horse ahead of the competition
A woman in Leadville saddles up her horse ahead of the competition - Jason Connolly /AFP
One rider clings to their rope as they are pulled along at high speeds
One rider clings to their rope as they are pulled along at high speeds - Jason Connolly/AFP

Leadville was founded as a mining community in the days of the Wild West but has since turned its attention to snow sports tourism given its position in the mountains.

It has an elevation of 10,152 ft (3,094 m), making it the highest incorporated city in North America.