Perhaps the strangest of the Winter Olympic sports, biathlon marries Nordic ski racing with riflery. The sport has been part of the Olympics since 1960, but dates back to 18th-century Scandinavia, where people hunted on skis. "The idea is to ski fast and shoot straight," says John Heilig, the manager of Whistler, British Columbia's Nordic Sport at the Whistler Olympic Park, the most developed biathlon program in North America.
A Discover Biathlon class lasts two hours and includes instruction, skate-ski equipment rental, biathlon rifle, and three rounds of ammunition. Classes are held every Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. from mid-December to mid-March, and every day during the holiday season. The first hour covers skate-ski technique and the use of 22-caliber Russian-made rifles.
"Most people can hit the target without too much trouble," says Heilig. "Where it gets interesting is when they try to hit the target after the exertion of skiing."
Unlike the Olympics, where athletes shoot two targets prone and two targets standing, newcomers at the Whistler Olympic Park shoot all four targets prone due to the sheer difficulty of shooting while standing. The class has a ratio of five participants to one instructor, and all instructors are certified ski instructors, introductory-level coaches, and have possession and acquisition licenses to own and use firearms.