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Home > Magazine > Skis > Backyard Biathlon Ski Party! ...has it all!

Backyard Biathlon Ski Party! ...has it all!
February 20, 2016

We've had a low-snow winter. Last week the forecast was for coming days of 55degF that would nuke what little snow we had. Suddenly we got a dusting of fresh snow. The yard had a solid inch of semi-firm base.

Our local ski gang suddenly realized that this would be our last night of good snow after the work-day. So we sprang into action and texted around. Let's do a biathlon after work! We'll put out big work-lights so we could see. I got into gear.

Suddenly our 6pm ski-time was upon me and I realized that I should also light up our bonfire! Hey, this could be more than just a little last-ditch skiing, it could be a Ski Party!

I got the fire going and the dudes started showing up.

I'd borrowed large work-lights and stands from my one brother. And two more pellet-guns from my other brother. All told we had 4 nice guns.

We had beers and snacks, too. I turned on our yard holiday lights.

Five of us were the party. Everyone did some practice shooting until we were comfy with how the guns were sighted. Our targets were Gatorade pints hanging from various tree branches. If we scored a hit they made a loud and satisfying "thwack."

We wore headlamps to see where we were skiing.

We would ski a big lap of a few minutes of my yard trail, then shoot. If we missed we'd ski a 30-second side loop then keep skiing another big loop. If we hit we could just take off on another big loop. All told we'd ski 5 big loops and shoot 4 times.

We took off!

We used the "track!" rule where an overtaker could holler "track" at the guy ahead and he had to pull over to let the passer pass. ...Of course there was cheating. So there was passing through the woods off the trail.

'Round and 'round we went! Shooting and missing and hollering.

Then it was over. What a thrill! We took a snack and beer break around the fire.

Then we did it again! It was too much fun to not keep doing it.

There's really something about skiing hard then stopping and aiming calmly then skiing hard again. It's somehow a lot like cyclocross. Compatible opposites are blended in a satisfying mix.

It was a blast to do night skiing in a non-lunar scenario. Last year our gang would do a night-ski each week and it often felt colder than it was. Days are short enough in winter to go out at night on purpose, it seems. So I always try for lunch-hour ski sessions as my top priority. This biathlon party seemed downright cozy. The loops were short. The moon was out. We were looping back around to our big bonfire every few minutes. Our colorful yard lights were always nearby. It was just all around festive.

This ski party had the right mix of everything! Of course we could've used a lot more skiers.

Let's see, we had: biathlon, skiing, snow, cold, night, moonlight, beer, snacks, cookies, bonfire, holiday lights, bright lights, headlights.

Oh, music might've been nice, too.

Really, if you have low snow, and a trail with only modest features, and maybe are just stuck with skiing at night, biathlon will put the whole show on overdrive.

But even with great snow, and a super trail, on a sunny day, heck, biathlon would be a welcome added dimension.

You can't go wrong!

We attempted it another time with skiing then going over to a shooting range for some shooting and for me that amount of separation made it two separate outings, really. So to fire up the magic for me, I had to make sure the shooting/skiing were seamless, part of one constant flow.

This event highlighted the need to know your rifle. I missed my target my first two laps and that was discouraging. In skiing you want your skis to be "just so." In biathlon you need to give just as much attention to your rifle. You have to know what it's going to do. Then you can confidently work on operator error. I was mystified by my misses so that made things less fun. Then I started using another rifle, one without a scope, and I started hitting! What a nice difference that made! It really struck me how having your skis dialed in is the same as having your gun dialed in. In biathlon you need both or it's just no good.

Our next level will be to figure out how to fab our own bi-slings and install them on a pellet-gun or .22. They mount to the side. But nobody wants to drill a gun-stock. So maybe we could figure out how to use zip-ties. We're thinking we could soak 2" webbing in epoxy so the loops stand out stiffly like they do in the official biathlon photos. Or, maybe we only need simple loops.

We note that biathlon shooting would often be legal on public lands that allow other shooting, like hunting. Just be sure to follow your local regs. Then set up your range so that the shooting is always in a safe direction, away from skiers and other possible land-users, with a safe backstop, ideally a big dirt surface that any shot will go into. I like the method of hanging small plastic targets that jump around when hit. Having to score or re- set-up targets downrange would be a hassle and maybe a safety concern.

Here's my other recent ranting about biathlon fever. That one uses pics of the biathlon scene in Germany. It's the most popular winter sport on TV! They fill stadiums. And women's biathlon is as big as the guys. They had their lady superstar lower in for her stadium start on an aerial wire! Check it out!

Skiing back around to the bonfire base of the biathlon.

Taking a snack break during the biathlon.

Ski Party central. It's fun having a bonfire party with skis on. With shooting thrown in. It all works together!

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