On Saturday, a sizable crowd of cross country skiers and onlookers came out for the first annual Mammoth Winter Biathlon.
61 skiers aged 8-66 raced through the freshly groomed trails at the Obsidian Dome area between Mammoth and June Lake. This was no ordinary cross country ski race. As the contestants lapped around the course, they stopped to fire off five rounds on a .22 target rifle.
While the winter biathlon has roots in military competitions, at least in this nation, cross country skiers aren’t the usual crowd well acquainted with fire arms.
In this first-ever Mammoth Winter Biathlon, contestants ranged in skill from those who had never fired a rifle, to very experienced shots. There was even an Olympic Biathlete floating around in the crowd.
With five pop up targets to hit, which affects their overall time, contestants who we saw mostly laid down to shoot in the prone position. Once the competition was over, those who wanted to stick around to practice shooting lined up to practice for next time. Contestants rotated through, until the Forest Service permit was up at noon.
Hank Garretson with the Eastern Sierra Nordic Ski Association expects to hold another event next year. The ski club is also looking to build a permanent winter biathlon shooting range.