Biathlon and Beyond

A Bozeman skiing legacy.  

Imagine trying to shoot five targets with only five shots. Then imagine doing that with your heart pounding, your lungs feeling like they’re about to burst, and your hands quivering, having just cross-country skied several kilometers at top speed. Welcome to biathlon, an Olympic sport for over 50 years and the latest craze to hit Bozeman. 

Bozeman is a ski town. Families here ski together. While our kids span the spectrum, from energetic novices to Olympic hopefuls, they needn’t aspire to be an elite athlete to get out on skis. Cross-country skiing is a fun, low-impact aerobic sport that can also fuel kid-worthy adrenaline rushes on groomed ski trails. And when cold-smoke snow is combined with .22-caliber precision rifles engineered for Olympic athletes and the DNA of Bozeman’s ski community, you get the exciting sport of biathlon in the Gallatin Valley. 

Biathlon, which has been gaining momentum in the U.S. in recent years, combines rifle marksmanship with cross-country skiing. First introduced as a winter Olympic event in 1960, biathlon originated in the ancient hunting practices of Northern Europeans—Nordic hunters would track game on skis across the tundra, rifle on their back. Awesome.

In 2014, the Bridger Biathlon Club was founded as a nonprofit community organization with a mission of promoting athletic achievement and inspiring the values of healthy living for all ages and abilities through recreational and competitive biathlon. Over the past year, the club has grown to over 40 enthusiastic nine- to 14-year-olds. They’re coached at the new Bohart Ranch biathlon range by former national and Olympic level biathletes, including Corrine Malcolm and Kelly Kjorlien, both former U.S. Biathlon Team members. MSU Nordic Ski Team members are also often found training and giving pointers to the club’s athletes, including Martin Maun of Norway and Johanna Talihärm who represents Estonia on their Olympic Biathlon Team.

The club is also engaged in building a ski-legacy venue in Bridger Canyon. Club members recently worked to secure a three-year lease and purchase agreement for the Crosscut Ranch and, separately, an exclusive option agreement to acquire the Bohart Ranch Cross-Country Ski Center property. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to link the 2,000 acres of skiable terrain at Bridger Bowl with more than 60 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails would create an enduring mountain sports center for Bozeman.

The vision to conserve the 500-acre Crosscut-Bohart resource as a single entity includes building a year-round recreation, sports training, and education facility. In the coming months, there will be a community-wide campaign to raise $15 million in philanthropic contributions needed to cover the cost of the two ranches, make upgrades to the trail system and facilities, and construct a new lodge.

Want to get involved with biathlon in Bozeman? Learn more or make a tax-deductible donation by contacting the Bridger Biathlon Club at 579-6930 or [email protected].