Biathlon is a sport that combines the endurance of free-technique cross-country skiing with precision small-bore rifle marksmanship. You can find a more detailed description of the two-discipline sport and its history on Wikipedia.
If your interest lies in the summer version of biathlon, simply sign up for a race! Summer races generally include a safety briefing and orientation before the race, and provide a good introduction to the sport. If you'd like to try some winter biathlons, the first thing to do is to attend a safety certification clinic. Until you do this, you can't use a .22 rifle in a USBA event. Membership in the USBA provides racers with extra liability insurance, if they desire it.
Although most competitors will use the skating technique, either classic or skating techniques are allowed. Biathletes use .22 caliber rimfire rifles with peep sights. The rifle magazine may hold no more than five rounds, and ammunition must be standard velocity. Detailed requirements for skis and rifles may be found in the IBU Materials Catalog IBU Materials Catalog, Sections 3.1.1 and 3.1.6.
No, you do not need to own a rifle. CBC owns several loaner rifles which are available for use at all CBC events (races and certification clinics). Depending on the event turnout, you will most likely be sharing a rifle with one or more other competitors. Ammunition is provided by CBC as well. Using a club rifle is a good option if you want to try one or two races before committing to a rifle purchase. Keep in mind that you must have attended a winter safety certification clinic before using one of the club rifles in a race.
Yes, for insurance and liability reasons you will have to take the USBA safety course even if you've already taken a hunter safety course. Check the clinic schedule for dates and times for upcoming safety clinics.
Events range from about 3 km to 20 km. Read the complete listing of categories and events for details.
Unless otherwise stated, novices are welcome at all of our events! Our local races are typically quite flexible in terms of adjusting race courses, whether the rifle is carried, etc., to accommodate various skill levels. Be sure to let the Competition Chief know if you have any questions or concerns regarding your participation in the event.
There is no minimum age. The competitor needs to be strong enough to navigate a course on some sort of Nordic skis (or by foot or mountain bike, in the summer) and to safely handle a rifle. Please see the safety certification clinic page for range supervision requirements for competitors under the age of 16. These requirements are in force any time the range is hot. All of our races at Snow Mountain Ranch include categories for competitors aged 12 and under, 13-16, and 17-20 in addition to the adult (age 21 and older) categories. Competitors aged 17-20 typically race the same courses as the over-21 age groups. CBC provides pellet rifles and ammunition for competitors 12 and under and for those older competitors who have not yet attended a winter safety certification clinic. Only the Snow Mountain Ranch venue is equipped to use the pellet rifles (our practice area at the Eldora Nordic Center is not).
Competitors who will be at least 13 years of age by December 31 of the winter competition season may race using a .22 rifle, if they have attended a Safety Certification clinic.
During the winter season, we maintain a target at the Eldora Nordic Center near Nederland, in addition to the range at Snow Mountain Ranch's Nordic Center, part of YMCA of the Rockies near Fraser, CO.
You must attend a safety certification clinic before you can use one of the training venues. Be sure to carry your proof of USBA safety certification and CBC membership with you when you use these facilities.
Rifles are allowed upstairs at the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center. Rifles are not allowed in the Eldora Nordic Center building. Please be aware of and respect these differences.
As usual, never leave your rifle unattended.
Eldora details: Let the desk personnel at the Nordic center know that you're planning to use the range. Be prepared to show your Red Book. The target is located about halfway through the Phoebe Snow loop - watch for the sign that says "Biathlon Range." There is a carpet rack at the range with a compartment on top that contains a sign-in sheet. Record your name, the date and time you're there. Bring your own paper targets. If you need target copies, you can print one from the CBC web site. Don't leave your rifle unattended at the range. Roll up the reset cord, remove paper, store the carpet(s) on the rack, paint the metal targets, and clean up your brass before leaving the area for the day. In short, please leave the area better than you found it.
Snow Mountain Ranch details: Sign in on the biathlon clipboard at the Nordic center desk when you get your ski pass each day. Be prepared to show your Red Book as well. You should bring your own paper targets. Carpets are in the warming hut. Do not leave your rifle unattended at the range. Roll up the reset cord(s), remove paper, store the carpet(s) back in the warming hut, paint the metal targets, and clean up your brass before leaving the area for the day. Again, please leave the area better than you found it.
In the Denver Metro Area and mail order:
The Shooting Cookbook produced by ABall Software Inc. contains a wealth of position, rifle fitting, and shooting drill information.
Even if you're just learning about the sport, there are several general areas in which you can help, depending on your interest and the amount of time you can spend at the event:
Contact the Competition Chief for the race dates you're interested in working. If you'd like to take on more of the race responsibilities, the next step is to serve as one of the Chiefs (Competition, Range, Timing, Course). Check out the race management guidelines to get an idea of the various tasks involved.
The procedure for zeroing your rifle is one of the primary differences between the training and racing environments. An established set of procedures can greatly increase the efficiency and success of everyone's zero, and smooth out the race organization in general. Here is a brief review of points to keep in mind while on the range during the pre-race zero period:
Target assignment: Unless stated otherwise, all zeroing is done on paper, usually one paper initially assigned per person. At CBC events, look for a whiteboard with a grid representing the paper targets, and put your name in one of the grid boxes. (At larger events, targets will be assigned by the Range Chief.) Be sure to shoot on the target you just chose! Typically there will be several lanes allocated to zeroing, with multiple (paper) targets at each point. The targets will be identified as a, b, c, etc. (the targets are labeled from left to right). Note that multiple competitors may be - and usually are - assigned to any one point.
Often it is necessary to find another open (paper) target to confirm your zero after shooting up your first paper. If the full length of the range at Snow Mountain Ranch is open, that provides more chances to find clean paper. Do not simply shoot on a piece of paper that appears to be unused. Check the target assignment whiteboard for available, unused targets. Some lanes may be unassigned and available for standing/dry firing/paper confirmation.
These tips originally appeared in the Summer 1998 Colorado Biathlon Club Newsletter
By supporting CBC with your membership and dues, you help offset the cost of running the club and maintaining the ranges. Although we don't discount entry fees for CBC members, your CBC membership makes the range and race possible.
Many have tried to add an extra syllable by sneaking an extra "a" between the the "h" and the "l." There is, in fact, only one "a," and a total of three syllables. Learn to pronounce it here.