April 8th, 9th and 10th, members of the WBA travelled to Mt. Bachelor, Oregon. Assisted by some former elite biathletes living in the Bend area they put on two days of Biathlon training and a competition for the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation (MBSEF). The attendees ranged in age from 8 to 65. The goal was to expose MBSEF skiers to Biathlon and to try to get Biathlon rolling in Oregon. The WBA did this once before, in 2008, when Jay Bender and Bob Vallor hauled gear and did training for a fledgling Biathlon group in Bend. That time it didn't find the dedicated, passionate organizer(s) any sport needs. This time the project was spearheaded by Dan Simoneau, the Program Director at MBSEF. If Dan's names seems familiar, it should, he was a three time U.S. Olympic Cross Country skier and one of the pioneers of skate skiing. He is also a capable, hardworking and upbeat personality. With MBSEF behind Biathlon and support for the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Director, Sue Foster, this may be what is needed to bring Biathlon back into the rich Nordic skiing community in Oregon.
The WBA hauled targets, rifles and other gear to a new compact range site at Mt. Bachelor Nordic. Friday the range was set up and Saturday morning close to 50 skiers arrived to participate. Bob Vallor provided the required U.S.B.A. Safety Class, giving two sessions due to the volume of participants. Bob monitored safety the rest of the weekend then worked on the breakdown, packing and transport of the targets, rifles and equipment. The WBA's Bryn Black, Tom Davies, Dave Anana, Don Youkey, Mark Turner and Bend locals (former elites) Bjorn Bakken and Julie Dietrich provided a day of Biathlon instruction on Saturday. On Sunday all the WBA rifles were zeroed, then 48 new biathletes massed and a three heat competition took place. By all accounts everyone had a good time, learned a great deal and hopefully a seed was planted. One that will grow two or three dedicated Biathlon organizers in the area.
If you have never skied Mt. Bachelor Nordic it is a true gem. With a long season, great rolling trail system it is a terrific place to ski. They used to have a very large Biathlon stadium area but restructured area boundaries cut that. The new range, very close to the Nordic Center, will need some refining but has great potential. The WBA will continue to do what we can to grow Biathlon in Oregon and the Northwest. Time will tell if the seed takes root. If it does the WBA will be there to suggest ways to raise funds and garner grants to obtain equipment.
The weekend was a significant effort in organization, hauling and placing heavy targets and range equipment, putting on the event then taking it all down and heading back home to Washington. We left three targets and their associated gear on site for the U.S. National Team to use when they train at Mt. Bachelor later this year. Those will be picked up later. All in all it was a very worthwhile effort to grow our sport. All that is needed now are some passionate people.