FAQs About Biathlon

What is biathlon?
Biathlon is an Olympic winter sport, which combines competitive, free-technique cross-country skiing and small-bore rifle marksmanship.  It is a challenging sport because of the combination of two very contradictory disciplines, skiing and shooting.  Cross-country racing requires intense, full out physical exertion over an extended period of time while shooting demands extremely fine control and stability. When athletes arrive at the shooting range, they have to shoot at a very small target, with a racing heartbeat and heaving chest while the clock is running.

Several other competition forms of movement and shooting (such as ski archery, snowshoe biathlon, running and shooting and mountain bike biathlon) are also normally included in the general category of biathlon.  As a result, biathlon is also enjoyed in the summer months.

Is biathlon a competition or a race?
The word competition is used in biathlon instead of race because it is not only a race but a combination of two different competitive activities.

Who governs the sport of biathlon?
In Canada, Biathlon Canada is the National Sport Organization and governing body.  Internationally, biathlon is governed by the International Biathlon Union (IBU), an International Federation with 66 member nations and a head office in Salzburg, Austria.

Is biathlon safe?
Biathlon is a safe activity suitable for individuals between 8 and 60 years old.  All participants are introduced to the safe handling of a rifle and are supervised at all times.  Youngsters use air rifles which are smaller and easier for beginners.  Also, because the sport of biathlon includes shooting, stringent regulations govern all actions of the competitors with regard to shooting safety and rifle handling.  Even the smallest violation of a safety regulation results in a disqualification during competition. As a consequence of the very strictly enforced safety rules, biathlon has an excellent safety record.

Who participates in biathlon?
Biathlon is enjoyed by people of all ages as athletes, volunteers, coaches and officials.

Where do biathlon competitions take place?  What sort of venues are used?
In the winter, biathlon competitions are conducted at a facility which has a central stadium area surrounded by a ski trail network. The stadium area consists of the shooting range normally with 27 to 30 targets, the start and finish areas including a mass start area, the 150 meter penalty loop, the technical building, ski test slope, team waxing huts, spectator areas and other necessary infrastructure.

Canada has biathlon facilities located in many towns and cities across Canada which can host both summer and winter biathlon programs and event.  Click here to find a club near you.

What is the Biathlon Bears program?
Biathlon Bears is a comprehensive program that teaches the skills required for the sport of biathlon.  It is designed for children between ages 8 and 14 and is delivered through Canada’s biathlon clubs.  It is a 3-tiered program and participants are recognized as they progress through the levels.  For more information, click here.

What types of equipment are required for biathlon?
Skis, poles, boots and appropriate clothing for the weather are required.  A rifle specially designed for biathlon is also a necessity.  Competitors are restricted to small-bore .22 calibre rifles with a bolt or lever action.  Automatic or semi-automatic firearms are not permitted.  For younger competitors, air rifles are often used for ease of access and use.  For summer biathlon, trade skis for rollerblades, a mountain bike or even your running shoes.

What types of competitions are there?  How are athletes classed?
There are various different types of competitions (for example, individual, sprint, pursuit, mass start, relay and mixed relay).  At the international level there are six classes of competitors:  Men, Women, Junior Men, Junior Women, Youth Men and Youth Women.  At national level events and lower, athletes may be classed by age and gender.  Click here for specific details related to types of competitions and classes. Competition-and-class-types.Masters35+ (3)

How do I become a registered participant or join a club?
Click here for information on registration and for a directory of clubs in your area.