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Be a biathlete! Ski & shoot at an amateur biathlon (even if you’ve never skied or shot before!)

Be a biathlete! Ski & shoot at an amateur biathlon (even if you’ve never skied or shot before!)

Instant biathlete.

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, which includes 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.

The starting line at the air-rifle biathlon at Roberts Farm Preserve. Upper right: an amateur biathlete takes his shots. Lower right: On the course (boy is it scenic). Photos courtesy Carl Costanzi
The starting line at the air-rifle biathlon at Roberts Farm Preserve. Upper right: an amateur biathlete takes his shots. Lower right: On the course (boy is it scenic). Photos courtesy Carl Costanzi

Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway hosts a nordic biathlon about once a month (the next one is March 3), 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. Read more about that.)

The starting line at the 2015 Liberal Cup Biathlon. Upper left: A view of the fire pit and shooting area in the distance. Lower left: On the course. Shannon Bryan photos
The starting line at the 2015 Liberal Cup Biathlon. Upper left: A view of the fire pit and shooting area in the distance. Lower left: On the course. Shannon Bryan photos

Hidden Valley Nature Center in Jefferson hosts the Midcoast Concervancy Biathlon every year, which is another beginner-friendly opportunity to give biathlon a try, even if you’ve never even skied before. The 2019 event is scheduled for March 2. There are races for different abilities – beginner, intermediate and advanced – but again, people’s minds are more on a good time. While you’re not racing, enjoy veggie chili and hot chocolate from the Alna General Store.

A shooter takes aim during the 2015 Liberal Cup Biathlon. Shannon Bryan photo
A shooter takes aim during the 2015 Liberal Cup Biathlon (now called the Midcoast Conservancy Biathlon). Shannon Bryan photo

None need to tote your own rifle, either. The air rifles (or paintball rifles in the case of the Midcoast Conservancy Biathlon) 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 cup of hot cocoa at the end and we can loiter in the snow with our fellow biathletes? Even better.

Skiers in the beginner race at the 2015 Liberal Cup Biathlon. Shannon Bryan photo
Skiers in the beginner race at the 2015 Liberal Cup Biathlon, now known as the Midcoast Conservancy Biathlon. Shannon Bryan photo

Midcoast Conservancy Biathlon

Saturday, March 2, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hidden Valley Nature Center, Jefferson
$35 for adults, $10 for kids and students. Prices go up $5 per participant on Feb. 23rd. Register: www.raceentry.com
The annual Midcoast Conservancy 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 some folks wear costumes!
FMI: www.midcoastconservancy.org

Nordic biathlon

Sunday, March 3, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Roberts Farm Preserve, Norway
$10 adult/ $5 youth or $15 adult/ $10 youth on site. Register: runsignup.com
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. Choose from the 1k or 2k course.
FMI: Facebook.com

Shannon Bryan

Shannon Bryan

I don't like "exercise" any more than you do. But you know what I do like? Paddleboarding with a friend all afternoon (and then sitting in the grass to drink chardonnay). Bike rides and nachos, hikes, yoga classes held in breweries, group paddles to Fort Gorges, you get the idea. Because Maine is my gym.