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For American Olympic fans, biathlon is overshadowed by blockbuster sports, such as alpine skiing and snowboarding. But biathletes are just as badass as the downhillers—these cross-country skiers race to average heart rates of 175 bpm, then fire five precision shots in as few as seven seconds, nearly miraculously hitting a 4.5-inch diameter target 165 feet away.
Although countries such as Belarus, France, and Norway, usually top the biathlon medal count, on February 13, Lowell Bailey, of Lake Placid, New York, recorded the best individual finish for an American at the Olympic Games. He placed eighth in the men’s individual 20K in Sochi.
Novice biathletes can train at Bailey’s New York stomping grounds, one of two such available experiences in the U.S.
Whiteface Lake Placid has hosted two Olympic games and numerous World Cup events. Today, the mountain's Olympic Sports Complex runs a two-hour biathlete experience (one hour is spent Nordic skiing, and the second is on the shooting range). Experienced instructors accompany athletes aged 13 and older through the training, which is offered for $55 on specific dates.
Soldier Hollow Cross-Country Ski Resort, outside Park City, Utah, hosted the 2014 U.S. Cross-Country Championships and is a go-to spot for skate and traditional cross-country skiers. It also offers a biathlon experience, where visitors can fire the same rifles used at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Two-hour sessions run $129 for adults and include equipment rentals, instruction, and ammunition; reservations are required.
Meant as introductions to the sports, neither of these experiences is suitable to launch into the elite sphere. Those aiming to be competitive should join a local club for further training. The Maine Winter Sports Center, Minnesota Biathlon, New York Biathlon, and Washington Biathlon Association are among the most active.