Haley Stewart, a former Olympic biathlete, led a clinic at Devils Thumb Ranch on Saturday to a crowd of individuals who have a new found interest in the sport and some aspiring and experienced competitors looking to brush up on their technique.
"The Fraser Valley is one of my favorite places to ski, so it is nice to come here and put on a clinic," Stewart said.
Stewart, a Colorado native who grew up in Lake Placid, N.Y., started participating in cross country skiing and biathlon at the age of 15 due to a mix of the right people, right time and the right place.
Stewart started as a competitive alpine skier before she decided that cross country and biathlon was a better fit for her personality. Her two siblings, Kara and Lars, are competitive freestyle mogul skiers.
Biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross country skiing and rifle shooting. The sport started as an exercise for Norwegian soldiers but has now gained international popularity and has been part of the Olympic Winter games since 1960.
"Biathlon is a unique sport with two different challenges and a third challenge in combining the two," Stewart said.
During her career she competed in numerous events while on the U.S. biathlon team including the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Stewart, formerly Haley Johnson, retired last year on a high note from the competitive biathlon circuit after rising through every rank possible to compete with the top 30 biathletes at the World Cup in Oslo, Norway.
After finishing the 2011 World Cup in Oslo with career-best times that qualified her for the 2011 World Championship team, Stewart chose to retire to pursue other goals.
Stewart is now setting up her home base in Denver with her husband, David, where she is finishing her education at the University of Denver studying public policy and social services.
Stewart attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, but left after two years to compete on the U.S. Biathlon Team. In 2010 Stewart was one of four female biathletes from the U.S. to compete in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Stewart began a small business called Snowfall Cards in 2005 to help pay for training and fulfill her passion for artwork. Almost the entire production process is her own.
She creates greeting cards with original motifs, many inspired by the nature around Lake Placid, from recycled magazine paper, which are then color-copied onto card stock at a local printer and sold from a local book store.
Stewart still sells greeting cards in her home town and mentioned if someone would like one of her cards, they can be attained by emailing her.
How to become a biathlete
When asked what the top three tips Stewart would provide to people looking to become involved in biathlon she said: Join the Colorado Biathlon Club as they can help to introduce you to the sport and they offer classes to certify you to use biathlon target ranges; improve your skate skiing ability; and to "just enjoy it and have fun."
The Colorado Biathlon Club, headquartered in Boulder, offers a number of services to its members such as: Safety certification clinics, which are needed to operate a rifle in a U.S. Biathlon Event; equipment rentals for members; newsletters; and volunteers and officials to help organize and run events.
To learn more about or join the Colorado Biathlon Club, visit www.coloradobiathlon.org.
The first biathlon event of the winter season is scheduled to take place Dec. 16, at Snow Mountain Ranch.
There is a range that athletes can use to practice in Eldora; however, Grand County has the only competitive range in Colorado, located at Snow Mountain Ranch, said Tom Merkt the Nordic Center director at Snow Mountain Ranch.
"We see a race every other weekend and training on a daily basis," Merkt said.
The shooting range is currently open at Snow Mountain Ranch and they plan to open their Nordic trails for skiers on Nov. 16, provided there is enough snow.
"We are eternally optimistic in the Nordic industry," Merkt said.
Snow Mountain Ranch will be conducting an introductory biathlon clinic on Dec. 2, where individuals can attend a day long clinic to learn about the sport and to receive certification to operate a rifle at biathlon ranges. The clinic will cost around $35.
For more information about the clinic, Nordic center, or about cross country skiing at Snow Mountain Ranch you can visit their website at ymcarockies.org/smrnordic, or by calling them at 888-573-9622.