biathlon in the French alps
The Vercors biathlon rollerski area has been built with the aim of offering the possibility of skiing all year round. The Vercors is already a well-known Nordic skiing destination, and now, thanks to the rollerski area, the Vercors can be cited as a prime destination for Nordic skiing enthusiasts. With 14km of run, a stadium with 25 50-metre targets and a 10-metre shooting range, the biathlon rollerski area is the ideal place to discover biathlon.
Biathlon is a sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. This sport has its origins in the survival techniques used by men who went hunting on skis in the Scandinavian forests. The first modern biathlon was organised by the Norwegian army during its annual army contest. It became an Olympic sport in 1960, at the Squaw Valley Winter Olympic Games. The Albertville 1992 Olympic Games hosted the first female biathlon competitions.
Contestants ski around a cross-country trial system. The total distance is broken up by either two or four shooting rounds : half in prone position, the other half standing. For each shooting round, the biathlete must hit five targets, all at a distance of 50m. The targets have a diameter of 45mm for shooting in prone position, and a diameter of 115mm for shooting in standing position (the targets are the same, but the external part of the target is covered up by a cover for shooting in prone position). For each successful shot, the black part is replaced by a white cover. The biathletes can choose in which order they shoot. The most efficient way is to move as little as possible, and therefore to shoot from right to left, or from left to right. The shooting is done in the shooting range. Each missed target must be compensated for by skiing around a 150-metre penalty loop. For the individual race, each missed target is atoned for by having one minute added to the skier’s total time.
The difficulty and excitement of the sport lie in its diverse physical demands. Cross-country skiing demands strength and endurance, while shooting requires precision, focus and calm.
Biathlon is done with a laser or an air-compressed rifle. The athletes carry the rifle on their backs. Automatics and semi-automatics are banned. The laser rifle is light and safe, and can be used by children who are eight and older. This type of rifle is used for shooting in the prone and standing positions, at targets at a distance of 10m. Shotguns and air rifles are heavier.