Skate Skiing in the Dark?

A photo of a new biathlete shooting targets at the Lake of the Woods Gun Club.

We thought the lights would come on at some point, but they didn’t.

So we skied in the dark.

After a moderate snowfall, we decided to hit Mount Evergreen’s trails to see if we could get better at skiing. We got there around 4:30 but didn’t realize it’s not really ski season, and there’s no reason for the trail lights to be on for desperate newbs like us.

We were the only ones there, and it was probably best if the people in the chalet restaurant didn’t see us abusing the sport in our early attempts to embrace it. We have almost no ski experience. My six exposures came during once-annual day trips to Manitoba hills in school. Crystal’s sole experience on the slopes was a single brief and glorious snowboard run that ended in a concussion.

But we went into the woods anyway to learn to ski—and it got darker and darker. Eventually, it was so dark that we couldn’t see much.

That’s not great when you’re terrible at skate skiing, at least for me.

While I wiped out a lot when I hit unseen bumps, Crystal was like a racehorse with blinders: She skied way better without being able to see the trail or the trees lining it. I doubt skiing in the dark is part of any coaching progression, but it really seemed to help her.

Eventually, it was pitch black, and it was clear that the lights were not coming on.

Crystal had the genius idea to put her iPhone in her headband and use it as a lamp.

That worked much better than expected. So I skied behind her, and we slowly worked on some of the drills we had been taught in the light on the same trail earlier in the week.

Did we shred the gnar? Probably not, but we got 1 percent better and had a great time doing it.

At the Range

The next day, we broke in a biathlon rifle I had been working on for a few days. I had the chance to ask a pair of national bench-rest record holders a ton of questions on rifle care, so it was time to head to the Lake of the Woods Gun Club.

We got great weather: -6 C with a 6-km wind. We fired 5 fouling rounds, then put the rifle on a bench and worked on a very large paper target. We started about 10 inches low but centered left to right at 40 m, and we walked it up into the black spray paint in five shots with only one knob-turning error (mine).

We moved to 4.5-inch paper targets, and Crystal had solid groups after 20 shots. So we moved to standing and managed three, four or five in the black (a magazine holds five rounds).

The best part? Shooting four-inch steel targets. It’s hard to describe how satisfying it is to watch them jump and hear the plink. You can see that here, after a little skiing in the dark.

What’s next?

Thursday we’re back at the range to try skiing and shooting for the first time. Because we fall a lot, we just leave the gun on the mat when we ski. I expect to fall a lot and miss a ton of shots because I’m wheezing. But I’m excited to see what Crystal can do.

She’s a better shot than I am, and she’s at least twice as fit. Stay tuned!


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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