Many of our favorite games have roots in military history. There’s football: A sport where two groups collide in an effort to make ground on a field; lacrosse: A game that was historically used as a peaceful way to settle disagreements between rival Native American tribes; and, of course, the summer camp classic: Tug of war.
Montanans love these games, too, but our long winters and historic affinity for marksmanship has opened the door for us to embrace another, more obscure sport, called biathlon. Biathlon was originally developed by the Norwegian military in the 18th century as a training exercise, and was officially adopted as an Olympic sport in 1960. The sport has seen a recent boom in popularity, as today’s version of biathlon can be enjoyed by civilian men and women of all ages and ability levels.
Biathlon races are loud, exciting events, but the concept is simple: Picture a cross-country skiing race, give the skier a .22 caliber rifle and a series of targets that must be plinked before crossing the finish line, and you have it in a nutshell.
Biathlon is an exhilarating sport for athletes and spectators alike. Watching cross-country skiers carry rifles on their backs as they zip underneath the forest canopy, hearing shots fired followed by the tinny sound of a struck target and simultaneously taking in the grandeur of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is an experience that can only be fully appreciated first-hand. Fortunately, many opportunities to watch and partake in this unique sport exist here and we invite you to come observe one of our area’s many biathlon events taking place this winter, or even try it yourself.
Free Ski and Biathlon Day: West Yellowstone
Mark your calendar, because January 5th is National Winter Trails Day, and to celebrate, the Custer Gallatin National Forest is waiving trail fees on West Yellowstone’s world-famous Rendezvous Trail System for the day. Additionally, Altius Custom Firearms and the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation will be hosting the “Try-It Biathlon Demo” at 12pm. All rifles and ammo will be provided and free demo skis will also be available on a first come, first served basis (courtesy of Free Heel and Wheel). To try biathlon, all you need to do is sign up and show up, and you can leave the rest to the sport’s most experienced professionals as they walk you through the ins and outs of skiing and shooting.
When: January 5th, 2019
Where: Rendezvous Ski Trails, West Yellowstone, Montana
Registration and more information: www.skirunbikemt.com
Bridger Biathlon Club Race Series: Bozeman
Whether you’re just looking to spectate or you’re curious enough to try the sport, there are plenty of chances to watch and participate in biathlon events this season at Bozeman’s Crosscut Mountain Sports Center. Throughout the winter, the Bridger Biathlon Club will be hosting biathlon events for ages 10 and up, and all ability levels are welcome. Equipment will be provided for participants in the novice categories, and a range clinic will be held from 9-10am at each event to help prospective biathletes learn how to shoot. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged.
When: December 9th, 2018; January 6th, 2019; February 23rd-24th, 2019
Where: Crosscut Mountain Sports Center, Bozeman, Montana
Registration and more information: www.bridgerbiathlonclub.org