Tom lines up a target at the biathlon shooting range in Smithers. (Submitted photo)

Tom lines up a target at the biathlon shooting range in Smithers. (Submitted photo)

How I spent my winter vacation: Biathlon training

Tom recounts how he stumble into the sport of skiing and shooting

How about this, “ What I Did For My Winter Vacation” as a story.

Just the opposite of the summer vacay, right?

I got started on this plan last year when we moved to town. After 25 years of making cross-country ski trails on the farm, it was time to join the Bulkley Valley Cross Country Ski club and use theirs.

It seems, though, my wider bush skis would not fit in the track and I was forced into buying a set of track skis.

Coincidentally, it was COVID times and oddly enough all the track skis in western Canada were sold out. Nada, zero, nothing left, how’s that possible?

Well it was COVID times and seems like everyone in town was skiing.

What to do? We have a few sets of skate skis available the salesperson explained and my boss gives lessons. Time for a quick decision, OK, why not? Let’s try it.

That was last year and after many trips to the track, I did achieve a semblance of a ballerina on snow as I crashed and burned the trails.

Some of these skaters do look good as they seem to glide up the hills.

Anyway, along the trail back to the parking lot is the sign Range. I checked it out and right beside this beautiful cabin is a real biathlon range, right here in Smithers.

Wouldn’t that be interesting, I thought.

OK, I am not heading for the Olympics, but it would be fun to try some shooting and skiing.

So, after some contemplation — can I skate well enough to keep up or can I even just get up with skis on from a prone shooting position — let’s go for it.

The old adage, “if not now, then when” fits this plan.

As luck would have it my timing was right. A masters training program was being set up with six sessions every Saturday morning through January and February.

I just needed to check the definition of masters and make sure that it was beginners masters.

Lea Marie was our coordinator and along with Kevin, Peter, Wally, Angus and Bryan, they provided the coaching.

These people took it upon themselves to donate their time and enthusiasm to encourage us to become biathletes.

That would be a stretch for me, no doubt, but I was willing to give it a try.

The biathlon program has been around for many years and is tightly affiliated with the Nordic Center.

There was a time when as many as 15 junior shooters and their parents were involved in biathlon.

Many road trips were taken and many metals were brought home to Smithers according to coach Peter.

We had a lot of fun and spent mega hours training and competing.

Unfortunately, that time is behind us and the group is in a bit of a vacuum waiting on the children of the masters to grow into the sport.

Even so, there are still three masters competing in the biathlon circuit this season in Quesnel and Prince George.

So we had six people sign up for the program and we were all given a rifle to use and care for.

These rifles can sell for anywhere around $3,000 and up.

They come with a rear and front sight which you need to centre through the aperture while shooting.

A person loads five bullets in the clip and fires off two clips to zero the sights.

The club has 15 targets set at a 50-metre distance.

Each target has its own five swing targets that will go down when hit.

There is a rope to the target frame that can be pulled to bring the targets back up.

After each clip, you are up and skiing around the loop to get your breathing level up.

Certainly, six sessions only introduces you to the sport and many hours are needed to become proficient.

Everyone enjoyed the training and instructing time together and hopefully it will be offered again next year.

If you have a winter story or event drop me a line or email

Thanks, Tom