Since timbersports were invented in 1985, they’ve remained relatively unheard of around the country. However, at MSU, a club timbersports team competes against other schools from around the region. The Exponent reached out to the MSU Big Sky Timbersports Club and spoke to Megan Ratz, a member of the team, to grasp more of an understanding of the sport. “Timbersports is, at its heart, is competitive lumberjacking,” Ratz said. “There are many different events, with the most popular being axe throw, horizontal chop, double-buck, and stock saw.”
While each of these events is centered around lumber activities, the events vary significantly. Axe throwing is one of the most popular events due to its easier nature. “Contestants throw a double-bit axe (one that has two faces) at a bull’s eye target. They can’t cross the foul line, which is 20 ft away from the target, until the axe hits the target,” Ratz said. The horizontal chop is also a major event for timbersports as it involves a competitor standing on a log and chopping between their feet. Ratz explained that although this is a daunting event, the safety measures make this activity a fun watch and a thrilling event to take part in. “We take safety precautions like wearing steel foot and shin covers and we train team members in correct chopping form long before they ever get on a block,” she said. “It’s a real test of endurance and focus to maintain accuracy.”
The program aims to use older lumberjack activities in a competitive state and nothing proves this more than the double-buck event. Two people saw off a “wood cookie,” or a single slice of wood, as fast as possible while using an antique crosscut saw, a saw that was an original lumberjack tool. “This is a real test of teamwork as the pair can’t afford a moment of hesitation if they want to get the fastest time,” Ratz discussed. Similar to the double-buck, the stock saw event is also a timed event. However, this event includes chainsaws that are idle on the ground. A pistol is shot off and competitors run to their chainsaw and make two cuts in the log with strict rules requiring an immense amount of focus. Ratz went into detail on just how important focus can be when partaking in timbersports, “You really have to listen to the saw to make sure you’re not bogging it down with too much pressure because that will cause your saw to cut ineffectively.”
Timbersports competitions typically take place in the spring, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the program from competitions in the last year. The team is also considerably smaller than other timbersport programs around the state. Yet, when teams all meet for competitions, it’s more like a “big party,” Ratz said. “All of the other teams are very friendly, always willing to lend a helping hand, cheer you on, and give you advice. It’s a fantastic environment because the general attitude is that your biggest competitor is yourself,” Ratz said. Ratz also went on to give a major shoutout to the MSU Club Sports Program as they reached out to support timbersports and provide the resources to keep the club alive despite recent challenges.
Next year, Big Sky Timbersports hopes to have a booth at Catapalooza to recruit new competitors to their team. Ratz closed out her interview with a message to anyone who may be interested in timbersports. “College is a time to explore what you like to do; and being a part of a team like this is a great way to get a little off the beaten path and try something new. Our team, and Montana State’s Club Sports program in general, is best supported by your involvement.”
If you’re interested in joining the Big Sky Timbersports team, email email@example.com. Follow the team on Instagram to stay up-to-date on competitions and announcements @bigskytimbersports.