Biathlon Beginners: Staying Fit in Northwestern Ontario

A woman smiles after tumbling on skis on a biathlon course in Kenora, Ontario.

Can’t ski, can’t shoot—why not take up the sport of biathlon?

Crystal and I hike and snowshoe in winter, but skiing looked like great exercise, and we both enjoy sports shooting at the Lake of the Woods Gun Club. So when the Kenora Nordic and Biathlon Club got a grant to add a biathlon range on club property in 2022, we were very interested.

Again, we can’t ski, and our rifle shooting might be called mediocre at best. But never mind that.

The Biathlon Club offers six-week introductory sessions, so we signed up.

Safety First

The first session, in late fall, was all about learning to shoot. Safety is paramount, and we spent a lot of time on that.

The rules are similar to what you’ll find on other ranges: Guns must be unloaded with actions open except when a person is shooting on a designated firing line with the muzzle pointed in safe direction. With the action open, they cannot fire a projectile, and they’re as safe as the putter in your golf bag.

Rifles—specific .22 caliber biathlon rifles with aperture sights—can only be pointed up when they are being moved to the firing line by someone with a firearms license. They are loaded only on the line, and you must keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. No one is allowed beyond the firing line when the range is open.

Biathlon targets come in two sizes: 4.5 inches in diameter, shot from standing, and 1.8 inches in diameter, shot from the prone position. You might not realize that when watching the sport on TV. But when the athletes are lying down, they are shooting very small targets.

When learning, we shoot the larger targets while prone, and we use a wooden rest for the gun for added stability. The targets are 50 m away, and they look tiny at that distance.

Can we hit them? Lying down, we can usually hit the large targets, and Crystal is accurate enough to hit the small ones, too. We’ve only tried the standing position once, and it was tough! Check it out:

Of course, it will be way harder to shoot accurately when we’re out of breath, but we’ll learn to ski and try that too.

The learning curve is definitely steep with two high-skill activities and a huge fitness requirement, but we’re both excited to use this great winter sport to stay active this year.

Stay tuned for more updates!


Skate Skiing in the Dark?

We head to Mount Evergreen and ski under the stars, then plink some targets at the Lake of the Woods Gun Club.


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