Whether as a spectator or participant, your first competition will likely include many new variables in a single setting. Many of our members believe that the WBA is one of the best organizations, period - we have a tightly-knit community and that we compete against are our friends as well. Everyone competing helps out with range setup and take-down - these competitions would not exist were it not for the cooperation of everyone involved.
Two out of the three winter venues we use - Stevens Pass and Mazama require skiing or snowshoeing to get back to the range. Besides this hurdle, biathlon is an extremely spectator-friendly sport. A typical race will have four shooting bouts and five skiing legs. The athletes will start and finish near the range, and in most formats a competitor will have to complete a penalty loop (also near the range) for each missed target. Our targets are steel behemoths, and when an athlete hits a target, that target will flip from black to white, showing the athlete and any spectators that a successful shot was realized. Each shooting lane has five targets in a row, 50m from the athlete. When prone (lying down) the target is a bit larger than a half-dollar; when standing the target is the size of a CD or DVD. Each competitor is responsible for shooting at the correct target and taking the correct amount of penalty laps - no help or coaching is allowed. No sort of magnifying sight or scope is permitted on a biathlon rifle, and very specific ammunition is required to preserve our targets and the safety of everyone involved.
On race day, check in at that venue with a friendly WBA member. Proceed to the range (remembering that some venues do not have a restroom range-adjacent). The range opens for approximately one hour for rifle zeroing - an opportunity for athletes to adjust their sights to their physiological status, wind, sun, and other conditions. Most athletes like to shoot zero 'hot' - that is, they take a warm up to simulate race conditions when they shoot their zero. Bringing food, water, and extra warm clothes is advisable, as there are almost always two or more heats of competition and you may be idle for an extended period of time.
If you're interested in participating, it's not recommended that you purchase a rifle right away! The WBA has many club rifles available at every event for you to get started.