What is biathlon?
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.
How do I get started?
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.
What kind of rifles and skis are used in biathlon?
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.
Do I need my own rifle?
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.
If I've taken a hunter safety course, do I also need to attend your Safety Certification Clinic?
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.
What are the event distances and shooting bouts?
Events range from about 3 km to 20 km. Read the complete listing of categories and events for details.
Do you have events for novices?
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.
What is the minimum age to participate?
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.
Where can I train?
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.
How do I get to the race venues?
Check this map to the Snow Mountain Ranch registration, range, and race areas. Download as: PDF | JPG
Where can I buy a rifle?
Where can I buy ski equipment?
In the Denver Metro Area and mail order:
How can I learn more about shooting?
The Shooting Cookbook produced by ABall Software Inc. contains a wealth of position, rifle fitting, and shooting drill information.
What options are available for volunteering?
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:
Pre-race setup at the range. This activity usually occurs between 9-10 AM. There will be a designated “chief of range” who will help direct the range preparation. The Chief of Range may also need assistance with zero lane assignment and general supervision during the zero period (usually 9:45AM - 10:30 AM).
Activities during the race: scoring, resetting targets, and helping time the racers. These volunteers generally need to be at the range by 10:30 AM so they can review the score sheets, etc.
Post-race cleanup of the range. Depending on the size of the race, this is usually happening around 2 PM.
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.
What range etiquette do I need to observe on race day?
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.
Scopes: Usually there are several club/personal scopes set up at the range. These should always be well back of the firing line, in the coaching area! No personal scopes should be placed at any of the firing points. At bigger events it may be that as many as eight athletes work with one coach who spots shots with the scope. This person suggests sight movement (if he/she knows how sensitive your clicks are), shows a diagram with the shots marked on it, allows the athlete to look at the group themselves, or all of the above. A handy tool is a ping-pong paddle type-thing with a target on it, on which you place pins to mark the shots. This can easily be held up and shown to the athlete.
All warm-up kits, rifle covers, and ammunition should be away from the firing point. These items should all be stored in the warming hut or at rifle stands. Extraneous equipment left at the firing points just clutters the firing points and holds the position up from being used by another.
Ammunition should be loaded into magazines away from the firing point. Have your magazines ready to go, so you are ready to zero when your turn comes up.
Skis should always be on in the range (except range officials) and for zeroing. It's hard at first, but with practice getting up and down with skis on becomes easier – after all, it's part of the sport. This is a good thing to practice in your range drills, so that you can get in and out of the range more quickly.
Once you're at the firing point, shoot up to one magazine of rounds (or perhaps two, if you need to shoot some fouling shots), then move away from the point to let the next person shoot. Check with the person manning the spotting scope and/or go to the coaching area and look at the group yourself, and make any sight adjustments. Then continue taking your turn at the firing point as necessary, each time shooting your five shots and then moving aside to check your results.
Ski poles can be left at the rifle stands while you do your zero. It is not necessary to zero with your poles, unless you are skiing into the range to confirm your zero with a pulse. It is often less cumbersome and quicker to do your first two or three five-shot groups without poles, then take your poles to do a short ski to get your pulse up and come into confirm your zero on a paper target. Make sure your coach/group knows this is what you are doing when you disappear for your ski – it need only be 2-5 minutes. Also make sure that you and the rest of the group at your lane know what paper you plan to shoot at when you return from your ski.
If you don't already have a set pattern for your zeroing, here are some guidelines:
Two or three five-shot zeros to get on the paper and make any adjustments. These are shot without poles for speed and simplicity.
One or two five-shot zeros, each preceded by a short ski so that you're skiing in to the range with a slightly raised pulse.
Optionally, another five shots on paper in offhand position.
This results in a range of 15 - 30 shots for your zero. 30 rounds of ammo should be more than enough to get a good zero. Unless something really went wrong – e.g., your sights were loose and moved on their mount – it's really not worth using any more ammo. If you just can't get on and it's not a technical problem with the gun/sights, chances are it's your position you need to concentrate on. Do your best for that race and go back to the drawing board in training – you'll just get yourself wound up before the competition. The competition is not the time to train – it's the time to be composed and just do what you can do on the day.
Be aware of skiers coming through the range to different firing points. If you have been back at the coaching area and you want to go to the firing point, look first to see if some one is skiing through your path. Anticipate your ability to pass in front of them without cutting them off, and either move forward quickly or wait for them to pass; likewise on returning from the firing point to the coaching area. In many cases you are not allowed to ski backwards through the range. (This may be hard to enforce at the range at SMR, though if rifles are ready at your allotted lane before zeroing, then it's only necessary to go through the range for confirming your zero.)
Those observing and not coaching or zeroing should leave the range and coaching area as free as possible to allow easiest possible mobility for others who need to be there.
These tips originally appeared in the Summer 1998 Colorado Biathlon Club Newsletter
Why should I join CBC/pay membership dues?
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.
How can I find out the latest CBC/biathlon happenings?
How many of the letter "A" are in "biathlon"?
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.