Biathlon is one of the sports that has eluded the American athlete since its creation. Unlike other Olympic sports, Biathlon is one of the only sports the United States has never won a medal in, nor even broken the top 10 — EVER! Is 2014 our year? It would be great if it was, but the odds are stacked against us considering the superior quality of European talent coming to Sochi in February 2014. So what is a young country (when compared to the Europeans) like America to do when the competition looks unbeatable? We do what was always do in this situation: rethink, retool, and build talent from the ground up!
This is where No Snow Biathlon comes into play. Considering the number of States in the United States with seasonal or longer than seasonal snow access compared to the European access to snow covered slopes. Most Europeans grow up with skis on their baby stroller, while most potential American athlete’s either have to travel to find snow, or never really see snow, let alone learn how to ski. This cuts the potential pool of Biathlon hopefuls by a significant margin.
The cost of the sport is another limiting factor. Skis, poles, boots, cloths, lift ticket, and lessons is expensive enough. But you add in the cost of a rifle, ammunition, and time on the range, the price of Biathlon easily triples. Now try to find a range NEXT to the ski lift, or even a coach who if familiar with some aspect of the sport (because we don’t have many American biathlon coaches who teach in the Olympic category — you would have to go to Europe to find a really good one) and is willing to train you for a small fortune. Add travel, visas, and lodging in remote mountain villas to the list, along with the need for translator or language lessons (considering many of the top 20 countries in Biathlon do not speak English).
Once you add all those very specific requirements up, you then come to realize that I have just described one of the most exclusive and expensive Olympic sports there is. But what if you’re a suburban kid from Virginia who rides a mountain bike and can shoot the beard off a turkey? You might have the chops to learn how to ski. You probably could learn to ski and shoot given the chance. But could you ever have a chance to compete in Biathlon — say, in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea — if you wanted to? I say, Yes! And the first step is No Snow Biathlon!
The first key component to No Snow Biathlon is a rifle range. You need some place to shoot, and you need it to have enough talented range masters to let you know if (a) you suck or not, (b) how to improve, and (c) how to shoot under pressure. Nothing helps build your Biathlon skills like competition — especially competition with other shooters. Go find your nearby ranges, explore their programs, and become a member. Most shooting clubs have .22 caliber rifles you can borrow or rent at the range, which can help you learn very quickly what makes a good rifle stand out from a bad one. Then all that is left is shooting, shooting, and more shooting. Many great marksmen have said that the secret to shooting well is shooting all the time. Trigger time is essential to making you an expert shot provided you learn the proper techniques and practice with both relaxed and stressed. Did I mention shooting? Yes! Do lots of that too!
First you need to find a range that supports rifles. Here are some links for Virginians:
Cardio is the next key component to No Snow Biathlon, and a fantastic source of cardio is trail running. Just like in cross country skiing, trail running is an excellent alternative to building up base strength without snow. Mountain biking could work too, but there is nothing like trail running and trekking to make your legs and lungs feel the same strain as cross country skiing. However, with this concepts, your trail running should consist of the trails just outside the rifle range. The trick is to go run, come into the range and shoot, then go run again. If you miss, you run around the parking lot as a penalty, then run another lap before coming back and shooting again. You can modify your shooting to include prone, kneeling, and standing, and your trail run distance based on short or long distance training (just like in a Biathlon event). You could even organize an event that included a pursuit or chase, all without the need for snow.
Get started with some trail shoes that won’t cost you an arm or a leg:
If your range doesn’t have good trails or you need more cross-country skiing practice, the option of rollerskis can also be utilized. Just like in a real biathlon race, the time between transitioning from skiing to shooting and back is a critical factor. Rollerskis can easily recreate the same pressures an athlete would experience when it comes to shooting after skiing, and even provide the same issues with getting out and back into skiis between shooting positions. Unlike trail running, rollerskis are three to four times more expensive than a good pair of trial shoes. Rollerskis are also a specialty item that would be an obstacle for most athletes when it comes to holding a No Snow Biathlon event. But the capability of rollerskis to recreate of experience of cross-country skiing techniques with racing in a biathlon cannot be ignored. Rollerskiing isn’t perfect, but when you don’t have any snow, it could be a great way learn or keep your existing cross-country skiing skills intact.
Rollerskis are not cheap, but you can get started here:
No Snow – No Problem
That sharp shooting kid from the Virginian suburbs now has more options then ever before to enter the world of biathlon. Even with No Snow, newcomers can trail run and rollerski themselves into a strong physical base that can translate well into a cross-country skiing physique. Additionally, the opportunities to shoot and simulate a biathlon can be achieved with only a little bit of creativity. Will it help create the next biathlon champion? It might. More than a few American biathlon athletes have been seen rollerskiing across summer landscapes. The time to begin your No Snow training is NOW if you want a chance to compete on the US Olympic Biathlon Team in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The first step is attempting the No Snow Biathlon in your No Snow town. If you do well with that, then may have what it takes to bring home America’s first medal in Biathlon.