"The Cutters Run so the children may walk"
The Jackson Hole Shrine Club has been hosting the Cutter Races since 1972 and the Skijoring Races since 2012. Back in the 1930's, folks were pulled by horses down Broadway using elk hides as sleds. The Wort Brothers were responsible for bringing skiing to Jackson with the Snow King lift, assembled using miner's cables that locals bought from Montana.
The Wort's were primarily invested in hospitality and in those days hotels, racing and gambling went hand in hand. The tradition of cutter racing went on until the 1950's, but wasn't resurrected until the Shrine Club took up the reins in 1972. The first races were Cutter Races in which teams of horses pulled chariots, not sleighs. The horses, which are typically thoroughbreds, run across a groomed, snow-packed course 6" to 8" in depth. In essence, it is a quarter mile drag race over snow!
The Cutter Races are typically held over President's Day weekend at Melody Ranch, a property located just outside of Jackson Hole proper and owned by the Von Gontard Family. The Skijoring Races were added in 2012. The 2014 & 2015 races were cancelled due to lack of snow or poor track conditions , so the 2016 race will be the 3rd annual. This year, it will be held at Teton Village as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the ski mountain.
Both the Cutter Races and the Skijoring Races directly benefit the Shriner's hospitals. At the turn of the century, the Shriners had 22 hospitals throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. Jackson Hole Shrine Club is the largest contributor to the national organization in the state of Wyoming and has given over $600,000 to date. The races themselves raise over $30,000 for the Shriner's as part of the three-week long Jackson Hole Winterfest, the biggest winter event in Jackson. The funds are dedicated to The Shriner's Hospital for Children, "a health care system which is world renowned for pediatric specialty car, innovative research, and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals. Children up to the age of 18 with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palette are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the family's ability to pay." Excerpt from Care, the Shriner's International Magazine Vol 6 No. 4 Winter edition 2015-2016.
Former President Rod Everett pioneered the idea of bringing skijoring back to Jackson, and he was assisted by John McDaniel, Treasurer. Currently, President McNeil Watson is at the helm with Past-President, Tom Needham at his side and Rod and Lou standing by to assist when needed.
For more information contact McNeil Watson at (307) 690-4096 or Tom Needham at (307) 739-9045 or go to: www.jhshriners.org
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