Taking a shot at biathlon: A snow sport with rifles

Hardwood Ski and Bike offers fun introductory program

If you’re a fan of winter activities and challenging yourself to something a bit out of the ordinary, then I highly recommend trying biathlon, a sport that combines cross-country (XC) skiing and rifle shooting.

As someone who loves snow sports, I was thrilled that Hardwood Ski and Bike offers an Adult Biathlon Clinic. They had me at “No experience is necessary to participate.” As a snowboarder who just picked up alpine skiing last year and has only cross-country skied (classic style) one other time with some target shooting experience, I figured the clinic would be a fun way to learn more about this Olympic sport.

Located in Oro-Medonte, Hardwood Ski and Bike is one of Ontario’s best spots for cross-country skiing and mountain biking (they even have fat biking in the winter).

The two-hour introductory biathlon clinic covers proper shooting, range practice and incorporates some skiing. Trail passes are included, but as a complete XC skiing newbie, I rented all my cross-country ski gear at Hardwood and chose to go with skate skis, which is what is used in competitions.

After picking up the rental skis, our instructor Kathleen gave an overview of how to handle the air rifles safely.

Then, we skied over to the range. Carrying the rifle in the case and skiing at the same time was probably the hardest part of the clinic!

Over at the range, Kathleen demonstrated the proper shooting techniques and position when lying down. After a couple of practice shots at a paper target, we progressed to shooting the metal targets.

To add some friendly, competitive fun, Kathleen had us do a couple of exercises.

Our first exercise - shoot while lying down then get up in between each shot (sort of like a burpee but instead of doing a push-up, you had to pump and shoot an air rifle at a target), pointed out the importance of getting into the shooting position quickly and taking aim effectively after all that movement.

The second exercise - ski a short distance then shoot while lying down, really brought to light the athleticism of biathletes being able to pace their ski sprints then being calm and steady enough to hit a walnut-sized target 50 metres away.
Biathletes also have to hit every target; otherwise, there’s either a time penalty or worse — they have to ski an extra loop! I won’t tell you how many times I wiped out from laughing hysterically at not being able to skate ski for beans while still trying (so hard) to out-ski my friends. My accuracy wasn’t too bad though I would’ve had penalty laps to ski for sure.

Our last exercise was to shoot standing.

We took off our skis because there wasn’t a lot of space in between some of the spots.

The Adult Biathlon Clinic at Hardwood Ski and Bike was a ton of fun packed into two hours — not only did I learn a lot about this competitive sport, but the firsthand experience of skiing combined with some marksmanship practice outside in the winter was unique and a great challenge. I am definitely making biathlon one of my top 10 things to do in the winter!
Here’s what my friends thought about the experience:
  • Alisha, self-proclaimed “Olympian wannabe” with cross-country experience – "I’ve always been intrigued and drawn to watching biathlon during the Olympics. I love when elements are fused! This beginner clinic was a great way to try my hand at skiing, steadying my breathing and trying to hit a target! A wonderful adventure with friends!"
  • Jason, some skiing experience – "I loved that this program introduces the basic fundamentals of biathlon in a safe and fun environment, regardless of your skill level. The program really helps build confidence with your skiing and shooting skills while providing a fun introduction to the sport. The part I enjoyed the most and found the most challenging was trying to hit your mark when your heart rate was elevated. I would recommend this program to anyone who is interested in biathlon. It was a fantastic experience for an individual or group."
  • Mauro, never cross country skied and only minimal exposure with handling a gun – "Our instructor ensured we were completely comfortable with the sighting, aiming and shooting portion only to then add in the skiing to get the heart rate up and then try it all over again in a complete different scenario. It was so much fun! I would do it again tomorrow!"
Check out Hardwood Ski and Bike -  for Adult Biathlon Clinics, biathlon programs for kids or, if you’ve got some experience and want to improve your marksmanship in warmer weather, they also have clinics in the summer.

Looking for more ways to check out biathlon?
Biathlon Bears – Chelsea Nordiq (for kids!) -
Biathlon - Canmore Nordic Ski Club -
Biathlon Lessons | Whistler Olympic Park - Whistler Sport Legacies -

Follow Get Out There Reporter Diana Lee for more @GetOutThere adventures - @only1phoenixx



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