How to Do Biathlon

Biathlon is a multi-discipline winter sport of fast skiing and careful target shooting. While this winter sport is hugely popular in Europe, there are also biathletes who compete at World Cup Level from North America, Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan.

The biathlete needs to be extremely fit to ski fast on cross country skis, come in to the rifle range, with a controlled heart rate necessary for accurate target shooting. The fastest skier with the highest number of targets shot is the winner.


  1. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 1
    Firstly understand what is involved in a Biathlon Competition: The skier carrying their .22 rifle in a harness skis off along a cross country trail (on cross country skis). The objective is to ski fast. They ski into a rifle range and shoot five targets in defined shooting positions which are either standing or prone (lying down). See in the image, the biathletes are in the prone position on special mats placed on the snow at the rifle range.
  2. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 2
    The competitor has to be extremely fit so that despite the fast skiing, their heart rate is calm and as low as possible, to allow for accurate target shooting. When the bullet hits the target, a metal panel closes over, indicating a successful hit. The aim is to hit all five targets. If any target is not hit, the skier may have to ski penalty loops and this adds to the time scored. The more misses, the more penalty loops to be skied.
  3. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 3
    The competitor then leaves the range, skis off on the next loop, comes back into the range and the process repeats itself until the full race distance is completed. For example, to compete a 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) course, the race may be 4 by 2.5 kilometers (2.5 mi × 1.6 mi) loops and each time the competitor comes into the same range he has to shoot the five targets.
  4. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 4
    The winner is the biathlete with the shortest overall time including time on penalty loops. Naturally, the competitor will want to shoot accurately, so as not to waste time skiing additional penalty loops.
  5. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 5
    Special Requirements for Biathlon: Learn that before even contemplating this sport, shooting lessons are recommended, a gun license is mandatory and learn how to safely handle a firearm. It sounds obvious, but the class of gun license you want would be one that allow you to use a rifle for competition purpose.
  6. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 6
    In some countries, to secure a shooters license may require an examination. Minors may have restricted licenses or may not be permitted to carry arms outside a licensed shooting range. In these cases Biathlon competitions will need to be modified to accommodate the firearms legislation of the local jurisdiction.
  7. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 7
    How to Train for Biathlon: You have to be very fit. Train in endurance sports like long distance running. Get used to carrying the gun when you go for a run first, then move on to skiing. If your country does not permit the carrying of firearms outside a designated range, practice by running with a backpack carrying a weight of about 5 kilos.
  8. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 8
    Train in shooting on prone position and standing at a rifle range. Train to be accurate. Train to hold the firearm always in the same position. Work on accurate target shooting then get the process faster and quicker. It's all about speed and consistency. Train to always lie prone in exactly the same position, likewise the standing position must be perfected to the optimum position for accurate shooting
  9. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 9
    when training at the range, get your heart rate up by doing star jumps or push ups in between each round of 5 shots.
  10. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 10
    Even in summer, train for skiing with roller skis. Have an endurance running program.
  11. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 11
    Work on upper body strength at the gym.
  12. Image titled Do Biathlon Step 12
    In winter, enroll in cross country skiing lessons. Join in cross country ski races as part of your training program to ski fast. This is an all terrain, all weather sport - learn to ski up the hills and how to handle icy tracks. Make sure you conserve energy on the downhill sections by keeping your arms freely sway back behind you, so you have more energy to push for the uphill sections and the final sprint finish.


  • Some countries, for example Canada and Australia have introduced laser rifles as an introduction to the sport of Biathlon. Legislation surrounding the use of laser rifles may not be as tough as it is for firearms, but this is not always the case. Check with your local police station or firearms authority.
  • Find out the rules of the competition, there are differences and variations with the type of guns used, the size and distance of targets, even the penalties for missing.


  • Again, if you don't have a firearms license, get one that will allow you to use this specific rifle.
  • Don't confuse this with duathlon. Duathlon also involves two sports, but it is the one with running and cycling.
  • This is an age-restricted sport because guns are involved.
  • The gun uses .22L bullets.

Things You'll Need

  • Cross country Skate Skis (Not Classic Skis) and poles
  • Ski waxes
  • Biathlon rifle with harness, ammunition and case
  • Cross country eye goggles, like Cascos which are hinged
  • Special biathlon gloves which securely grip the firearm and with trigger sensitive finger parts
  • Lycra wear for biathletes. These have special sticky dots at the elbows for secure positioning when prone
  • In very cold weather, wear special protective underwear
  • Always have a change of dry clothing as sweat will evaporate and chill your body.
  • Wet wipes. Always clean your hands after handling ammunition and the firearm. Take all precautions against ingestion of lead.

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Snow Skiing | Winter Outdoor Activities