The Hidden Valley Nature Center (HVNC) will be hosting their second Biathlon event this Sunday, with 150 individuals expected to participate in the race that combines cross-country skiing and target shooting. Photo: United States biathlete Jeremy Teela at the 2002 Winter Olympics, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
JEFFERSON — The Hidden Valley Nature Center (HVNC) will host their second Biathlon event this Sunday, Jan. 27, with 150 individuals expected to participate in the race, which combines cross-country skiing and target shooting.
The event, which takes place at the HVNC in Jefferson, will take place on HVNC’s trail system to form a circuit course for participants to race on and shoot at targets with air rifles, provided by the Southern Maine Biathlon Club.
According to Bambi Jones, the HVNC employee who has been organizing the event, the registration filled up extremely fast this year.
“We’ve turned people away,” said Jones. “We’re full at 150 people, which is more than we were first going to allow.”
The event was the brainchild of HVNC and other outing clubs, including Teens to Trails, which is based in Edgecomb.
“It was sort of a joint idea,” said Jones.
The first midcoast biathlon was held in 2012, and was a great success, even with the lack of snow.
“It was challenging,” said Jones of the previous year’s event. “We probably had about 100 yards of the route that was bare ground.”
In addition, last year, participants were required to bring all of their own skiing equipment. This year, thanks to the Maine Winter Sports Center in Carribou, all participants have equipment available for use in the event.
The one thing that participants are not expected to bring is a rifle for the target shooting.
“We can hardly expect people to have their own gun, and to be honest we really don’t want people to have their own gun,” said Jones with a laugh.
The event itself is a fairly simple concept. Participants ski around a course designed by the HVNC as quickly as they can. At periodic intervals, they have to stop at a designated spot and use an air rifle to shoot at targets down range, with a total of five targets to hit. With each target missed, an extra penalty lap that is slightly shorter than the whole course is added.
A lot of the strategy comes from being able to ski fast enough to make good time, but not wear out too quickly and not be too worked up to make the shots.
Jones was surprised by the quick and enthusiastic support for the event.
“I had no idea. I’ve probably turned away 30 people too,” said Jones. “One thing that we did this year that might have enticed people is that we encouraged teams to participate.”
The event itself is not a fundraiser for HVNC, but a way for the center to entice people to get outside and be active during the winter months. Participants of all ages are welcome. This year’s youngest participant is 8 years old. The oldest is as of yet unknown, as participants aren’t required to share their age if they are over 18, but last year’s oldest was over 70 and finished the race on one ski after his other broke.
The lion’s share of the work for the event is being completed by 40 volunteers, who will be doing everything from organizing the registration to resetting the targets to sorting out the equipment. In addition, The Liberal Cup public house and brewery in Hallowell has sponsored the event and provided a lot of the funding needed to acquire the equipment.
Although everyone is welcome to attend and watch, Jones warns that the parking space is very limited, and remote parking is two miles south with a shuttle service.
Even so, Jones encourages interested parties to attend and learn about what the HVNC is all about.
“It will be totally fun for everyone who is there,” said Jones.