Born and raised in Saskatchewan, with a short stint living away in early adulthood, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the sports and activities available in our province. But it wasn’t until I moved to Lumsden that I learned about the world of biathlon.
Biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship, a perfect Saskatchewan sport in my opinion. Biathlon has 6 race types: individual, sprint, relay, pursuit, mass start and team. Biathlon trails range in distance from 7.5km to 15km for women and 10km to 20 km for men. The shortest trail is skied during sprint races and the longest in individual races. Athletes stop in intervals during races to shoot at targets in both standing and prone (on their stomach) positions. Each shooting interval has 5 targets, and the number of shooting intervals dictates how many rounds of ammunition each athlete carries during the race. In individual races, missed targets result in a penalty of one minute for each miss being added to competitors’ final times. In all other race types, a missed target results in a penalty loop that must be skied before returning to the main trail.
Rooted in Scandinavian tradition, the first recorded biathlon took place in 1767 along the Norway-Sweden border. The competitors were the two countries’ ski patrol units. Remarkably, the first official club, established in Norway, wasn’t founded until almost a century later in 1861. And in 1924 biathlon made its debut in the Winter Olympics as a demonstration event called ‘military patrol’. The modern biathlon we know today became an official Olympic event for men in 1960. International biathlon competitions for women began in 1981 and became an official women’s Olympic event in 1992. Olympic biathlon events only include individual, sprint, relay and pursuit races.
A bit closer to home for me, tucked away in the Qu’Appelle Valley is Qu’Appelle Valley Nordic Ski Club. Nordic’s trail systems allow skiers of all ages and skill levels to enjoy our long winter months by keeping active and taking in the beautiful valley views. Starting at age 8, adventurers can register for QVN’s biathlon programs. At age 12, athletes can decide to be a recreational or race competitor and after the age of 20 biathletes can join the masters program. Along with group programs, QVN also offers biathletes the opportunity to work with a coach. For younger enthusiasts, the Bunnyrabbit and Jackrabbit ski programs for ages 3-11 introduce the sport of skiing and teach the different styles, classic and skate.
Winter ski sports in Saskatchewan are governed by the Sask Ski Association. While there are many cross-country skiing clubs across the province there are only a few biathlon clubs. These clubs include: Blue Mountain Bullets, Regina Biathlon Club, South Saskatchewan Wildlife Association (SSWA) Biathlon, Hudson Bay Ski Club and Saskatoon Wildlife Biathlon Club.
Like other sports, biathlon not only teaches the fundamentals of skiing and marksmanship, it instills life-long lessons like hard-work, responsibility and accountability. To learn more about Saskatchewan biathlon or get involved near you visit Biathlon Saskatchewan. When the winter season is as long as ours, discovering and trying new outdoor activities is a great way to make the most of the cold weather!
See you on the trails!
-Paige Sandvold is a Marketing Manager on the Brand and Platform Team at Directwest
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