It doesn’t happen often.
The last time anyone woke up to discover she’d been magically transformed into a gifted sharp-shooter with the cross-country endurance of an Olympian overnight was…never. (That doesn’t stop me from fantasizing about it anyway, especially when the winter games roll around or when World Cup coverage gets my imagination going. Because biathletes are badass.)
Becoming a real-life biathlete takes training – and lots of it.
Unless, of course, we’re talking about Maine’s amateur biathlete circuit – with stops in Norway and Jefferson. In that case, we’re ALL biathletes, even if we’ve never ever been on cross-country skis and even if our sharp-shooting experience is limited to childhood Nerf-gun fights and that time we used the kitchen sink sprayer to combat a really big spider.
Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway hosts an air-rifle biathlon about once a month (the next one is Feb. 19), where all levels of skiers are welcome and the scene is one more focused on fun skiing than serious competition. Roberts Farm Preserve has equipment to borrow if you don’t have your own (in fact, the snowshoes and cross-country skies are always free to use when the warming hut is open, generally 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Donations always appreciated, of course).
Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson hosts the Liberal Cup Biathlon every year, which is another beginner-friendly opportunity to give biathlon a try, even if you’ve never even skied before. The 2017 event is scheduled for January 29 (UPDATED: Postponed to March 26. There are races for different abilities – beginner, intermediate and advanced – but again, people’s minds are more on a good time. Did I mention The Liberal Cup is there pouring beers?!
None need to tote your own rifle, either. The air rifles are provided at all of these races, along with plenty of practice time and volunteers to help you out. And the rifles stay in the shooting area (you won’t be skiing around with them like the pros do, which is good for lots of reasons, most of which have to do with our collective fear of shooting our own eyes out. Thanks, “A Christmas Story”).
These events give cross-country skiers a chance to dabble in biathlon and explore our competitive side. It’s also a chance to ski among other skiers of all experience levels (some panting harder than others!) simply because we all enjoy it. And if we get a beer at the end or a cup of hot cocoa and we can loiter in the snow with our fellow biathletes? Even better.
Liberal Cup Biathlon
Sunday, Jan. 29 UPDATE: Postponed to March 26 due to ice
“Due to dangerously icy conditions at HVNC, we do not feel it would be either safe or fun to hold the event so we are rescheduling to March 26. Registration is open and we hope you can all come then!”
Hidden Valley Nature Center, Jefferson
The annual Liberal Cup Biathlon is chance for all levels of skiers to give a biathlon a try. There are races for beginners (and by beginners, they mean folks who have never even skied before), intermediate and advanced. But it’s all a friendly good time and there’s beer!
Sunday, Feb. 19
Roberts Farm Preserve, Norway
All ski levels welcome at these monthly biathlons. There’s a mass start, but folks spread out pretty quickly. It’s all really friendly competition and the course is super pretty. Skis available if you don’t have your own and there’s hot cocoa after the race. Cookies to the winners, too!