National Guard Biathlon

The National Guard Biathlon is an event that combines cross country skiing with precision target shooting. During this Winter “race”, Soldiers are required to ski with their rifle and equipment over a set distance to a shooting range, where five shots at five knockdown targets down range and are typically taken from the prone position.

Depending on the format, either a time penalty or penalty laps are assessed for missed shots. The Soldier then finishes another lap, and comes back to the shooting range for another set of shots – this time from a standing stance. Again penalties are assessed for missed shots. The bi athlete then completes one last final loop to complete the Biathlon.  The challenge in such an event lies in battling the cold, wind and your own heartbeat while trying to squeeze off a precise shot.

The rich history of this event can be traced back to mountain ski regiments found in Scandinavia and Russia in the 1500’s.  Closer to the 19th century Germany, Austria and Switzerland also had Soldiers on patrol with skis in the mountains.  The first actual organized competitions that took place were in Norway in 1776. These were team events that combined shooting skill with skiing.

Competitions were held roughly every year between 1792 and 1818. Around 1912, again in Norway, the team competition was joined by an individual format race during which ten rounds were fired in two shooting bouts. In the rest of Europe, Germany’s first military patrol races were held in 1902.  Although the Biathlon is a typical Winter Olympic event, the National Guard has continued the true biathlon which has a deep military history and lineage.

For more information about the current Biathlon schedule, team members, etc. check out their Facebook page here.

Have you ever competed in this event? Tell us about it please. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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6 thoughts on “National Guard Biathlon”

  1. Amy Skalicky

    The National Guard Biathlon is rigorous, but I always thought it looked fun. Did you know that the first World Biathlon Championships were held in 1958, and the Colorado’s now-disbanded Camp Hale, home of the famous 10th Mountain Division, participated? Massachusettes recently earned some bragging rights, for in 2012 five of their eleven “Boston Tea Party” team members qualified to compete at the national level, something they had not done in a decade. Nice job!

  2. I have spent many a winters out there cross country skiing and, like you, I have never run in a biathlon but based on my experience X-Country Skiing, I must say it seems very challenging. Cross-Country Skiing is a GREAT workout for those Winter months where it’s too cold to go running!

      1. You will have to try sometime, Chuck. Doubt you get much snow down there in FL, but if you are ever back near the Mason Dixon line, hit me up and I will help whip you back into shape on the hills of PA!

  3. I’ve never done a biathlon myself, let alone the National Guard Biathlon, but it looks like a lot of fun. I’m sure it’s pretty difficult to shoot accurately when you are winded from the cross country skiing part. In either case, it would be fun to try out to see how I could do.

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