Backyard Olympics: The rise of biathlon |

Backyard Olympics: The rise of biathlon

Teri Vance
Courtesy of Erick Studenicka

American athletes have taken home medals in every sport of the Winter Olympics – except one.

The unconventional sport of biathlon, which pairs skiing and shooting, has never seen an American medalist.

Edward McClelland at Slate Magazine writes why he thinks the sport hasn’t become too popular in the U.S.

“(Biathlon) doesn’t just combine two different athletic disciplines,” he wrote. “It combines two cultures – nature boys and rednecks – that want nothing to do with each other here in America. Ted Nugent has never written a song about cross-country skiing.”

But the U.S. may be poised this weekend to turn that around.

New York’s Tim Burke finished in the top three in the World Cup’s 15 kilometer and will compete in that event Sunday.

If Burke succeeds, it could mean a spurt in the sport’s popularity – something that Glenn Jobe of Sierra City has worked hard to see.

Jobe competed in the sport in the 1980 Winter Olympics and has continued to train young athletes since then.

The trick is to ski hard, he said, but then drop the pulse level down enough to shoot straight.

“It’s not the fastest skier who’s going to win,” he advised. “And it’s not the best shooter. It’s the one who can put it all together.”

Learn for yourself

Jobe is now offering private, three-hour lessons at Northstar-at-Tahoe.

The first part of the lesson is a dry-firing clinic where participants learn the 12 steps of firing a gun.

The second part of the lesson involves cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on the trail system to the biathlon range where the targets are set up.

Rates are $299 for the first person, then $50 for each additional person up to four.

Lessons are offered weekdays for ages 13 and up. Reservations are required 48 hours in advance by calling 530-562-3270.

For more information, go to

Compete in a race

Auburn Ski Club and Northstar Cross-Country will host the 10th Mountain Division Biathlon pre-competition clinic and race.

A clinic will be March 20, where participants will learn rifle safety, practice prone and standing positions on the snow, do some live firing, ski some small loops and practice dry firing with an elevated pulse and then ski some loops with live firing.

Cost is $50 for adults and $30 for juniors. Fees includes a trail pass, instruction, range use, rifle use and ammunition.

Sign up at

Check-in will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Northstar Gas Station in the Castle Peak parking lot.

The 5K and 9K races will be March 21. Register at or through the Auburn Ski Club at auburn