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Posts Tagged ‘biathlon’

Too much snow?

13.Feb.2014 by Ethan Dreissigacker
View from our hotel room in Bled, Slovenia

View from our hotel room in Bled, Slovenia

A little over a week ago Clare, Mike and I met up with a group from MWSC and headed to Europe to get in some real, European biathlon racing. We would fly into Munich, then drive to Bled, Slovenia where we would stay through the first weekend to compete in an Alpen cup race in nearby Pokljuka. From there we’d head to Rosenau Austria where we’d race in the Austrian national championships.  Or so we thought… when we got to our hotel in Bled we found out that sometime during our travel the races in Slovenia had been canceled… due to excessive snow. What?! that’s crazy! – we thought as we piled into the hotel elevator with all our stuff. Then the power flickered, the elevator settled a bit, and we noticed the following sign on the wall:

Photo Feb 05, 6 52 27 PM

Maybe the race organizers made the right call. Turns out that a huge storm had come through just days before, dumping ice and snow on Bled and higher up at the venue, almost 2 meters of heavy, wet snow! Good news was we were in a four-star hotel with good food.

too much snow?!

too much snow?!

The next day as we drove up to the venue it was clear that just a day earlier the road up there was impassable due to downed trees (I was having flashbacks to ice storm cleanup in Craftsbury) and the snow banks kept getting higher and higher. Up at the venue they were still digging out, and would be for the duration of our stay.  We got another meter or so of snow during our time there, and every morning they would plow snow off the shooting range just so we could see the targets. They’re hosting a biathlon world cup here in march, and boy do they have the work cut out for them. We opted to move up to a sport hotel located right at the venue, and stay there for a few days to train. The other guests at the hotel included some Slovenian, Russian, and Australian junior biathletes, so we were able to get in a couple good time trials with them.

Note that only one half of the range is open... and the other buried

Note that only one half of the range is open… and the other buried

The next surprise came a day or two before our planed departure for Austria: Rosenau had gotten the warm end of the storm, and had no snow whatsoever. The backup site for Austrian nationals was Obertilliach, but they had gotten the cold end with the full 2-3 meters of snow and would be digging out for awhile. Once again our races were canceled. Luckily we got wind of a Czech Cup with two races in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, where they had no natural snow but a 2.5km man-made loop. So we packed up, dug out the cars, and hit the road. A couple hours later we were driving though green grassy hills.

Austria

Austria

So, here we are in Czech training and getting ready for a mass start biathlon race on Saturday, followed by an Individual format on Sunday, neither of which have been canceled yet! Hooray for man-made snow!

The Stadium in Nove Mesto, Czech

The Stadium in Nove Mesto, Czech

 

NANANordic and the Alaskan Arctic

24.Apr.2013 by Susan Dunklee

Last week, I lived for a few days in an Alaskan school to teach the students how to ski through a program called NANANordic. NANANordic and its sponsors provided skis and coordinated different instructors to do week long visits to all 11 villages in the NANA region this spring. I was one of five instructors sent to the village of Noorvik, armed with about 60 sets of ski equipment. We worked with kindergarten through 12th graders both during their gym classes and after school hours. The kids loved it!

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This kid’s name is Smiley. Fitting, don’t you think?

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The NANA region contains 38,000 square miles, 11 villages, and is home to the Inupiaq People. I flew into the largest town, Kotzebue and then took a small bush plane to the village of Noorvik, which was the first town in the nation to be counted in the 2010 census: population 668. This was my first visit north of the arctic circle and my first visit to Alaska.

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The scene at a village airport (Selawik). Villages are connected by snowmobile highways, rivers, and bush planes. For the most part, there are no traditional roads for cars and trucks except within villages.

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As our plane landed, we parted a large herd of caribou which separated to either side of the runway.

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Within 15 minutes of landing in Noorvik we found ourselves put to work handing out skis, boots and poles. Our team leader, Andrew Kastning from UAA, had put out a message on the town vhf radio that there was Sunday afternoon skiing available for the kids and a full crowd showed up within minutes. NANANordic had first visited Noorvik in 2012 and the kids couldn’t wait for the skiing to come back this year. Despite bringing a wide selection of gear and sizes, we often didn’t have quite the right sized gear for everybody, but it didn’t matter. They were happy to make it work, even if the boots were 3 sizes too big or the skis were two feet taller than they were. Every day after school we would outfit over 50 kids with skis then have to turn the rest away once we ran out of gear.

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Passing through downtown with a gym class during the school week.

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The most popular and our most commonly visited ski site was the beech of the frozen Kobuk River at the edge of town. There was a big hill that created hours of entertainment for some kids and gave others the freedom to ski across and explore fish camps and tributaries on the other side. One morning we even saw a moose running across the river.

Part of my role with NANANordic was to introduce the skiers to biathlon. I brought a rifle out to the river one day after school for a show and tell to talk about the sport. Biathlon originated in northern cultures as a means of hunting and could still be very applicable today.

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We also adventured into the forest behind the school. I bet these little trees are over 60 years old and grow slowly in such a harsh climate.

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Notice the Brooks Range in the background. You are looking at the northernmost section of the Continental Divide.

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Sticks in the air! It took me a little while to get used to some new lingo: “sticks” were poles, “sliding” meant skiing downhill, “skates” sometimes were skis, “flying” meant hitting a jump, and a “snow go” is the same as a snowmobile.

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We devised an organized gear storage system for the week in the back closet of the gym. After all the villages have been visited, NANANordic will divide up all the skis and leave some in each village. Part of our job was to think about who in the village might be interested in coordinating and caring for the gear after we left. We tried to encourage some of Noorvik’s older students to form a student run ski club to fill that role.

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Noorvik Instructors: Odin Brudie, Frankie Pillifant, Dylan Watts- coach with APU, myself, and Andrew Kastning- ski coach at UAA. Odin and Frankie live in Juneau where they have spent years running a junior ski program (and hopefully a future biathlon program!) through the local 4-H club. Frankie also works in the NANA region’s Red Dog mine and had some great stories about life there.

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At this time of year, the sun stays up in the arctic until about 11 pm, and the town kids would be outside playing during all daylight hours. If they weren’t outside, there was a good chance they were playing basketball in the school gym- which is an incredibly popular sport in the area.

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One couple in town, Dave and Audrey, invited us to their house for dinner several times and offered us some local specialities including muktuk (whale skin and blubber).

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They were very generous and also shared caribou stew (above), wild swan (“arctic turkey”), salmon, and wild blueberries, food they had harvested themselves.

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The most impressive part was that they invited us over while they had an 11 day old newborn, Helen. Check out her traditional Inupiaq swing, made from rope, canvas, and a wood frame.

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The first day we were in the arctic, we saw a couple sled dog races, including the finish of the multiday Kobuk 440 race in Kotzebue.

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Some teams were still passing through Noorvik and stopping at an aid station there when we arrived.

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Check out these sealskin pants. Very warm.

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At the end of our stay in Noorvik, we had the option of doing a village-to-village ski before flying home. We skied 35 miles to Selawik on one of the snowmobile “highways” and our new friend Dave supported us on a snowgo. We carried packs loaded with food, water, dry clothes, and a few survival supplies. We also carried a rifle for safety. A real life application of biathlon! During the ski we saw a caribou herd and spotted wolf tracks in the snow.

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The ski took almost 6 hours and despite mostly flat terrain, I bonked hard at the end. It was too cold to stop for very long to refuel. Luckily we had muktuk to snack on. During the first few hours, we were skiing thru mist and couldn’t see much in front of us. Most of the route went over flat tundra terrain without trees.

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I had a wonderful time in Noorvik and can’t wait to go back to arctic Alaska again! I already miss being mobbed by friendly kids, aka “death by hugging.” Photo: NANANordic

Altitude and Sunshine

19.Oct.2011 by Susan Dunklee

It’s October, which means I’m training in Utah’s Heber Valley for our biathlon team’s annual fall altitude camp.  Every day so far has been warm, sunny and beautiful on the valley floor.  The surrounding Wasatch mountains are capped with fresh snow; a promising reminder of the skiing soon to come.  Solider Hollow, the venue where we are training and the site of the 2002 Olympic games, sits at 5,500 feet.  The thinner air at this altitude makes it slightly more challenging to train and race.

The US Biathlon Association board members were in town last weekend for a meeting and banquet, as were the US Biathlon Foundation members.  We gave them some shooting instruction and then enjoyed a variety of activities together such as horseback riding, golf, and fly fishing.  At the banquet, I had the honor of sitting next to Bitsy Kelley who runs a west coast weekly radio show about everything outdoors.  We chatted about hunting, gardening, farming, and shared ideas for living self-sufficiently.

I went horseback riding with the board in the town of Sundance, home of Robert Redford. The scenery was beautiful with the aspens, oaks, and maples at the height of foliage season- almost as colorful as the Green Mountains back home. photo credit: Laura Spector

I went horseback riding with the board in the town of Sundance, home of Robert Redford. The scenery was beautiful with the aspens, oaks, and maples at the height of foliage season- almost as colorful as the Green Mountains back home. photo credit: Laura Spector

The first week of training was great.  We’ve shared the range with Maine Winter Sports Center, Twin Biathletes (the Barnes), the Junior National Team, and a contingent from Canmore.  A couple of times, we even saw our xc friends from the US Ski Team, Central XC and Sun Valley sprinting around the Soldier Hollow trails.  Although all these groups are on different training schedules, it is inspiring to train around them.  At the end of this week, we’ll also have the chance to meet some of the US speed skaters.  They invited us to watch their World Cup competition in Salt Lake.

Group training on the range. photo credit: Pat Coffey

Group training on the range. photo credit: Pat Coffey

Today was our first of two sprint races out here.  Racing at altitude tends to be very painful, the lack of oxygen makes it harder to recover.  My goal was to start at a relaxed pace and keep getting faster as the race went on.   I also applied a similar strategy on every uphill: ski at a controlled pace until the last few meters, when I would accelerate and carry more speed over the top.   It paid off- I had the fastest ski time of the American contingent (not by much), but I missed 3 out of 10 targets, while several of my teammates shot clean or only missed 1 or 2.

Standing shooting. Notice the new custom stock that I got a few months ago. photo credit: Jonne Kahkonen

Standing shooting. Notice the new custom stock that I got a few months ago. photo credit: Jonne Kahkonen

To read more about our Utah training camp and see more pictures, check out this Fasterskier article written by Chelsea

The Jericho Experience

17.Aug.2011 by Susan Dunklee

Snowflake Photographs by Snowflake Bentley

Jericho: a small Vermont town made famous by “Snowflake” Bentley, the first man to photograph snowflakes back in 1885 and discover that no two are ever alike.   Over 125 years later, Jericho’s winter heritage is still going strong, even in the summer.  Every August, I travel to Jericho to join a crowd of snow-loving biathletes.  We train at the biathlon facilities of the Ethan Allen Firing Range (a military base) and we stay in the barracks.  When are not busy training, we explore the surrounding community, from the ridges of Mt. Mansfield to the shops and restaurants of nearby Burlington.  Over the course of a week or so, we catch up with friends that we haven’t seen since last season’s snowflakes melted.

The Ethan Allen Firing Range is named after Vermont’s well-loved hero and independent-minded leader of the Green Mountain Boys during the Revolutionary era.  It houses the Vermont National Guard and is famous throughout the US for its Mountain Warfare School.  The base encompasses 11,000 acres along the western slopes of Mt. Mansfield and Bolton, and the frequent percussion of artillery training can be heard echoing off ridgelines for miles.

One of the most memorable parts of Jericho training camps is barracks life.  During the recent camp, I was lucky enough to be assigned to the spacious officer’s quarters with the rest of the National Team, but most of the younger athletes were housed in the more traditional barracks.  Over the years, we have all put in our time there.   The experience gives us a glimpse of what army life must be like.

Imagine a big open bay with two long rows of bunk beds.  There is no privacy and space to store the contents of your duffel bag and all your training gear.  At night, the bathroom lights and exit signs spill light into the sleeping bays.  Athletes in the bottom bunks sometimes experiment with draping extra blankets around their sleeping space to form a dark cave.  Every time someone crawls out of bed to go pee or talks in their sleep, the entire room can hear.  Industrial-sized fans buzz all night long, circulating hot, humid, stifling air from the open window, which is barely better than having no fans.  For those of us unadapted to such conditions, it is very difficult to sleep well and recover from hard training.

During my handful of visits to Jericho, I’ve learned to fall back asleep after I hear drill sergeants bellowing outside my window at 5:00 A.M.  I prefer to wake up a little closer to 7 and head to the dining hall (wearing closed-toed shoes of course, it’s a military rule).  After breakfast, I join my teammates in our van and we drive a ½ mile straight uphill from the barracks to the biathlon range.  The van chatters over washboards, struggling to maintain enough momentum to make it to the top of the hill going the speed limit (20 mph).  Our van’s dust cloud settles over clusters of junior athletes whose coaches make them run up the steep hill for a warm-up before practice.  I’m glad my coaches don’t make me do that routinely.

The Jericho biathlon range and ski trails rank among the finest facilities in the country. In the past, Jericho has hosted large international competitions and the club still frequently hosts important events such as junior world team trials.  Jericho’s range is one of a handful in the country with paved trails for summer rollerski training.

A stadium scene during race day.  (Photo: Judy Geer)

A stadium scene during race day. (Photo: Judy Geer)

Training at Jericho provides a great opportunity to practice the transition from skiing to shooting and vice versa.  Transitions are a complicated process requiring lots of practice to perfect.  For example, while approaching the range you need to slow down, glance at the wind flags, take some deep breathes, remove poles, look for an open point and check its corresponding target downrange, and open the sight covers and bolt, and then set-up on the shooting mat.

The venue also features superb rollerskiing.  Its trails that flow naturally over challenging terrain.  They snake through the woods dipping, climbing, and twisting around corners.  I feel much safer rollerskiing on isolated trails like these than trying to avoid traffic out on the roads.  The only obstacles we run into are camouflaged soldiers who randomly pop out of the woods during their land navigation training and woodland critters.  Recently wildlife highlights: a mother doe and two spotted fawns frozen in the middle of the trail and a daring turkey that strutted under the targets during a shooting clinic for beginner biathletes.

One common complaint about Jericho is the weather.  Even a perfect summer day always feels hotter and more humid than seems reasonable, despite the base’s mountain setting.  The local landscape creates its own weather patterns, and they tend to be more extreme than the rest of the state.  For example, incoming clouds from the west get caught on Mt. Mansfield and create violent thunderstorms and hail.  The weather, combined with the relentless biting flies can make some workouts feel absolutely miserable. Luckily, the base has a saving grace for mugginess: a couple swimming holes in the Lee River.   We just have to remember army rules: never walk anywhere alone and never walk through the base wearing only a swimsuit.  Luckily, they haven’t outlawed swimming itself.  After practice we cool off in freezing stream water and hope we won’t climb out with any leeches attached.

Another method for cooling off on those hot August day.  (Photo: Sara Studebaker)

Another method for cooling off on those hot August days. (Photo: Sara Studebaker)

By late evening, the heat finally relents a little bit.  If you were to walk out the front door of our barracks at dusk, you’d see soft spots of LCD lights dotting the facing hillside. They could almost be mistaken for fireflies except for the accompanying murmur of conversations.  A closer inspection would reveal about 20 soldiers (and a bunch of athletes) sitting in the dewy grass and talking/texting on their cell phones.    One corner of that hillside boasts up to three bars of cell service despite the rest of the base having none.    With no internet on base, “cell phone hill” is in very high demand.

To get our daily internet fix, we drive into Jericho Corners in the mid-afternoon.  Across from the historic Old Red Mill and Snowflake Bentley museum, sits a cafe and bakery called The Village Cup, or “Athlete’s Cup” as we fondly refer to it.  We visit so frequently that by the end of our training camp we start to feel like regulars.  Instead of napping all afternoon to recover from training, we eat generous slices of raspberry pie or chocolate torte and cruise Facebook.  We compose blog entries to a background of classic tunes, such as Cat Steven’s Wild World.  It’s a pretty quiet place, but one day, a teammate (who himself is a multi-time Olympian) returned all excited because he had spotted a celebrity on the back porch: a member of the band Phish.

Another favorite off-base escape is the Jericho Country Store, located in Jericho Center.  Our most common objectives are fresh sandwiches and soft-serve maple ice cream. However, as the oldest continuously running country store in VT, this small establishment boosts many curiosities.  Every nook and corner is filled with something interesting, such as old-fashioned glass jars full of candy, a checker game set up on a barrel table, specialty soaps, greeting cards by community artists, local beef, all sorts of historic signs and pictures, and antique post office boxes.  (The store still functions as a post office).  After finding some sort of yummy treat, we wander across the street to sit under a tree on the town green to savor it.

The culmination of the annual Jericho training camp is a couple of rollerski biathlon races, hosted by the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club.  These races are technically “Rollerski Biathlon Nationals” but they often feel more low-key than that.  Many athletes view them as a way to get some practice racing in during the summer months.  However, this year the races were important.  They served as part of the trials process to determine who will represent the US in European competitions in November/December.

Me, on the starting line (Photo: Elizabeth Geraghty)

Me, on the starting line (Photo: Elizabeth Geraghty)

How did the races go for me this year?  Not as well as I had hoped, but they certainly weren’t a disaster.  I was able to ski hard despite the heat and had some of the top rollerski times both days, but I struggled in the shooting range.  Results from the two races can be found on host Ethan Allen Biathlon Club’s website:

http://www.eabiathlon.org/results2011RollerskiBiathlonSprint.pdf

http://www.eabiathlon.org/results/2011RollerskiBiathlonPursuit.pdf

One reason I enjoy racing in Jericho is that I consider it my home course.  I first ski raced in Jericho trails at the young age of eleven for the New England Bill Koch Championships and I also competed there for high school state championships.   The Ethan Allen Biathlon Club is the parent club to my home biathlon program in Craftsbury.  The Craftsbury Outdoor Center often sends a crew of volunteers for the races.  It’s been wonderful the last couple years to see so many GRP teammates and coworkers help out and bring home more enthusiasm for the sport.  I often have an additional fan club of family and friends cheering me on, which is a rare experience when we spend most of the winter racing in Europe.  Dear fan club, next time I’ll make sure I let you know if the race start time changes to something earlier than posted- sorry about that.  This year was special because my cousin, Jesse, who is in the Guard and happened to be training on base, stopped by unexpectedly.

Hands down, my favorite thing about spending time in Jericho is the community.  The August races and training camps are the only time during summer months when the majority of the US biathlon racing community assembles together in one spot.  There are very few people in the United States who understand biathlon and can relate to the experience of being a biathlete.  When we come together it is an empowering experience for everyone involved.   The entire US National Team competes alongside juniors, beginners, the National Guard teams, and older masters groups.  On a given year, racers and coaches might hail from New England, New York, Pennsylvania , Minnesota, Wisconsin,  Colorado, Wyoming, Washington state, and Alaska.  We often see representation from the eastern Canadian providences as well, such as Quebec, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

Some faces of Jericho. L to R: Major Parsons (military), Bjorn Bakken (US Biathlon intern), Eric Tremble (Ethan Allen club coach), John Madigan (Ethan Allen club's director), Pat Coffey (former Ethan Allen coach, now national team coach), Corrine Malcolm (national team athlete)

Some faces from Jericho. L to R: Major Parsons (military), Bjorn Bakken (US Biathlon intern), Eric Tremble (Ethan Allen club coach), John Madigan (Ethan Allen club director), Pat Coffey (former Ethan Allen coach, now national team coach), Corrine Malcolm (national team athlete)

Once the racing crowd dissipates, the locals remain.  The National Guard’s biathlon team and the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club (civilians) use the range year round.  These groups are made up of amazing people who are passionate about the sport and never fail to be friendly and helpful.  I always enjoy sharing the range with the Guard athletes and the club team.  Many thanks to Major Parsons and his crew from the Guard who create a welcoming environment on the base and maintain top notch facilities.  Thanks also to the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club and their numerous volunteers for both hosting high quality races and for promoting the sport to people in the local community.

Another flake captured by Snowflake Bentley.  I wonder if the concept of man-made snow ever crossed his mind?  One of the reasons Jericho's ski trails are so reliable in winter is their snow making system.
Another flake captured by Snowflake Bentley. I wonder if the idea of man-made snow, something Jericho is capable of now, ever crossed his mind?

Jericho: a small Vermont town made famous by “Snowflake” Bentley, the first man to photograph snowflakes back in 1885 and discover that no two are ever alike. Over 125 years later, Jericho’s winter heritage is still going strong, even in the summer. Every August, I travel to Jericho to join a crowd of snow-loving biathletes. We train at the biathlon facilities of the Ethan Allen Firing Range (a military base) and we stay in the barracks. When are not busy training, we explore the surrounding community, from the ridges of Mt. Mansfield to the local farmers’ market. Over the course of a week or so, we catch up with friends that we haven’t seen since last season’s snowflakes melted.

The facility where we train and stay is the Ethan Allen Firing Range, which is an army base in Jericho, VT. Named after Vermont’s well-loved and independent-minded hero from the Revolutionary era, the Ethan Allen Firing Range houses the Vermont National Guard and is famous throughout the US for its Mountain Warfare School. The base encompasses 11,000 acres along the western slopes of Mt. Mansfield and Bolton, and the frequent percussion of artillery training can be heard echoing off ridgelines for miles.

One of the most memorable parts of Jericho training camps is barracks life. During the recent camp, I was lucky enough to be assigned to the spacious officer’s quarters with the rest of the National Team, but most of the younger athletes were housed in the more traditional barracks. Over the years, we have all put in our time there. The experience teaches a partial appreciation for what army life must be like.

Imagine a big open bay with two long rows of bunk beds. There is no privacy and no good space to store your duffel bag and all your training gear in it. At night, the bathroom lights and exit signs spill light into the sleeping bays. Athletes in the bottom bunks sometimes experiment with draping extra blankets around their sleeping space to form a dark cave. Every time someone crawls out of bed to go pee or talks in their sleep, the entire room can hear it. Industrial-sized fans buzz all night long, circulating hot, humid, stifling air from the open window, which is barely better than having no fans. For those of us unadapted to such conditions, it is very difficult to sleep well and recover from hard training.

During my handful of visits to Jericho, I’ve learned to fall back asleep after I hear drill sergeants bellowing outside my window at 5:00 A.M. I prefer to wake up a little closer to 7 and head to the dining hall (wearing closed-toed shoes of course, it’s a military rule). After breakfast, I join my teammates in our van and we drive a ½ mile straight uphill from the barracks to the biathlon range. The van chatters over washboards, struggling to maintain enough momentum to make it to the top of the hill going the speed limit (20 mph). Our van’s dust cloud settles over clusters of junior athletes whose coaches make them run up the steep hill for a warm-up before practice. I’m glad my coaches don’t make me do that routinely.

The Jericho biathlon range and ski trails rank among the finest facilities in the country. In the past, Jericho has hosted large international competitions and the club still frequently hosts important events such as junior world team trials. Unlike many of the US’s biathlon venues, the Jericho range has paved trails for summer rollerski training. Apart from a couple venues in the northern tip of Maine, it is the only place in the northeast where we can rollerski into a fulled-sized range.

Training at Jericho provides a great opportunity to practice the transitions between skiing and shooting and then shooting to skiing. Transitions are a complicated process requiring lots of practice to perfect. For example, in the approach you need to slow down as you enter the range, glance at the wind flags, take some deep breathes, remove poles, look for an open point and check its corresponding target downrange, and open the sight covers and bolt; all before hitting the shooting mat.

The venue also features superb rollerskiing with trails that flow naturally over challenging terrain. They snake through the woods dipping, climbing, and twisting around corners. I feel much safer rollerskiing on isolated trails like these then trying to avoid traffic out on the roads. The only obstacles we run into are camoflagued soliders who randomly pop out of the woods during their land navigation training and woodland critters. Recently wildlife highlights: a mother doe and two spotted fawns frozen in the middle of the trail and a daring turkey who strutted under the targets during a shooting clinic for beginner biathletes.

One common complaint about Jericho is the weather. Even a perfect summer day always feels hotter and more humid than seems reasonable, despite the base’s higher elevation. The area creates its own weather patterns, and they tend to be more extreme than the rest of the state. For example, incoming clouds from the west get caught on Mt. Mansfield create violent thunderstorms and hail. The weather combined with the relentless biting flies can make some workouts feel absolutely miserable. Luckily, the base has a saving grace for mugginess: a couple swimming holes in the Lee River. We just have to remember army rules: never walk anywhere alone and never walk through the base wearing only a swimsuit. Luckily, they haven’t outlawed swimming itself. After practice we cool off in freezing mountain stream water and we hope we won’t climb out with any leeches attached.

By late evening, the heat finally relents a little bit. If you were to walk out the front door of our barracks at dusk, you’d see soft spots of LCD lights dotting the facing hillside. They could almost be mistaken for fireflies except for the accompanying murmur of conversations. A closer inspection would reveal about 20 soliders (and a bunch of athletes) sitting in the dewy grass and talking/texting on their cell phones. One corner of that hillside boasts up to three bars of cell service despite the rest of the base having none. With no internet on base, “cell phone hill” is in very high demand.

To get our daily internet fix, we drive into Jericho Corners in the midafternoon. Across from the historic Old Red Mill and Snowflake Bentley museum, sits a cafe and bakery called The Village Cup, or “Athlete’s Cup” as we fondly refer to it. We visit so frequently that by the end of our training camp we start to feel like regulars. Instead of napping all afternoon to recover from training, we eat generous slices of raspberry pie or chocolate torte and cruise Facebook. We compose blog entries are to a background of classic tunes, such as Cat Steven’s Wild World. It’s a pretty quiet place, but one day, a teammate (who is a multi-time Olympian) returned all excited because he had spotted a celebrity on the back porch: a member of the band Phish.

Another favorite off-base escape is the Jericho Country Store, located in Jericho Center. Our most common objectives are fresh sandwiches and soft-serve maple ice cream. However, as the oldest continuously running country store in VT, this small establishment boosts many curiousites. Every nook and corner is filled with something interesting, such as old-fashioned glass jars full of candy, a checker game set up on a barrel table, specialty soaps, greeting cards by community artists, local beef, all sorts of historic signs and pictures, and antique post office boxes. (The store still functions as a post office). After finding some sort of yummy treat, we wander across the street to sit under a tree on the town green to savor it.

The culmination of the annual Jericho training camp is a couple of rollerski biathlon races, hosted by the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club. These races are technically “Rollerski Biathlon Nationals” but they often feel more low-key; many athletes view them as a way to get some practice racing in during the summer months. However, this year the races were more important. They served as part of the trials process to determine who will represent the US in Europeans competitions in November/December.

How did the races go for me this year? Not as well as I had hoped, but they certainly weren’t a disaster. I was able to ski hard despite the heat and had some of the top rollerski times both days, but I struggled in the shooting range. Results from the two races can be found on host Ethan Allen Biathlon Club’s website: http://www.eabiathlon.org/results/2011RollerskiBiathlonSprint.pdf http://www.eabiathlon.org/results/2011RollerskiBiathlonPursuit.pdf

One reason I enjoy racing in Jericho is that I consider it my home course. I first ski raced in Jericho trails at the young age of eleven for the New England Bill Koch Championships and also competed there for high school state championships. Jericho is the closest biathlon race venue to my home and the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club is the parent club to my home biathlon program in Craftsbury. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center often sends a crew of volunteers for the races. It’s been wonderful the last couple years to see so many GRP teammates and coworkers helping out and bring home more enthusiasm for the sport. I often have a fan club of family and family friends cheering me on, which is a rare experience when we spend most of the winter racing in Europe. Dear fan club, next time I’ll make sure I let you know if the race start time changes to something earlier than posted- sorry about that. This year was special because my cousin, Jesse who is in the Guard and happened to be training on base, stopped by.

Hands down, my favorite thing about spending time in Jericho is the community. The August races and training camps are the only time during summer months when the majority of the US biathlon racing community assembles together in one spot. There are very few people in the United States who understand biathlon and can relate to the experience of being a biathlete. When we come together it is an empowering experience for everyone involved. On a given year, racers and coaches might hail from New England, New York, Pennsylvania , Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington state, and Alaska. We often see representation from the eastern Canadian providences as well, such as Quebec, Ontario and Prince Edward Island. The entire US National Team competes alongside juniors, beginners, the National Guard teams, and older masters groups.

Once the racing crowd dissipates, the locals remain. The National Guard’s biathlon team and the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club (civilians) use the range year round. These groups are made up of amazing people who are passionate about the sport and never fail to be friendly and helpful. I always enjoy sharing the range with the Guard athletes and the club team. Many thanks to Major Parsons and his crew from the Guard who create a welcoming environment on the base and maintain top notch facilities. Thanks also to the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club and their numerous volunteers for both hosting high quality races and for making the sport accessible to all levels of athletes around the community.