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Not Your Grandpa’s Winter Sports


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Bored of the same ol’ skis and snowboard? We have some new ideas for you!

 

BIATHLON

A stand-up comedian recently described the biathlon as “drive-by skiing,” and that’s remarkably and perhaps disturbingly accurate. The event involved skiing for a while, then shooting at a target, then skiing some more. It’s an odd but weirdly attractive spectator sport.

 

According to the Colorado Biathlon Club, “Biathlon is a sport that combines the endurance of free-technique cross-country skiing with precision small-bore rifle marksmanship.”

 

If you’re looking to get started, they say that, “If your interest lies in the summer version of biathlon, simply sign up for a race! Summer races generally include a safety briefing and orientation before the race, and provide a good introduction to the sport. If you’d like to try some winter biathlons, the first thing to do is to attend a safety certification clinic. Until you do this, you can’t use a .22 rifle in a USBA event. Membership in the USBA provides racers with extra liability insurance, if they desire it.”

 

Despite the shooting aspect to the sports, youngsters and beginners are welcome. “Unless otherwise stated, novices are welcome at all of our events. Our local races are typically quite flexible in terms of adjusting race courses, whether the rifle is carried, etc., to accommodate various skill levels. Be sure to let the Competition Chief know if you have any questions or concerns regarding your participation in the event. There is no minimum age. The competitor needs to be strong enough to navigate a course on some sort of Nordic skis (or by foot or mountain bike, in the summer) and to safely handle a rifle. Please see the safety certification clinic page for range supervision requirements for competitors under the age of 16. These requirements are in force any time the range is hot. All of our races at Snow Mountain Ranch include categories for competitors aged 12 and under, 13-16, and 17-20 in addition to the adult (age 21 and older) categories. Competitors aged 17-20 typically race the same courses as the over-21 age groups. CBC provides pellet rifles and ammunition for competitors 12 and under and for those older competitors who have not yet attended a winter safety certification clinic. Only the Snow Mountain Ranch venue is equipped to use the pellet rifles (our practice area at the Eldora Nordic Center is not). Competitors who will be at least 13 years of age by December 31 of the winter competition season may race using a .22 rifle, if they have attended a Safety Certification clinic.”

 

The place to go is the Eldora Nordic Center near Nederland, “You must attend a safety certification clinic before you can use one of the training venues. Be sure to carry your proof of USBA safety certification and CBC membership with you when you use these facilities. Rifles are allowed upstairs at the Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center. Rifles are not allowed in the Eldora Nordic Center building. Please be aware of and respect these differences. As usual, never leave your rifle unattended.”

Sound advice

 

NIGHT SLEDDING

No surprises here – night sledding is exactly what it sounds like. Sledding, at night. But the popularity of the pass-time, has grown in recent years, even if it isn’t a particularly competitive sport. In fact, while we were researching it, we came upon a page called “night sledding and fondue.” As soon as you add melted cheese to a sport, you know it’s not destined for the Olympics.

 

So the great news is that you can night-sled anywhere where you can regular-sled, like Snow Mountain Ranch Sledding and Tubing Park in Winter Park. “A great value compared to some of the tubing areas at big ski resorts, Snow Mountain Ranch in Winter Park is run by the YMCA of the Rockies. You’ll find rope-tow access to a great tubing hill and views of the surrounding mountains that will knock your mittens off. You can bring your own tubes or use theirs. Next to the tubing hill is an ice-skating rink pavilion, and you also have the option to buy a YMCA day pass for use of the Olympic-size swimming pool and indoor climbing wall to make a full day of fun.”

 

ICE CLIMBING

The place to go for ice climbing in the state is Apex Mountain School. “Discover winter mountaineering on day trips to Vail’s frozen waterfalls or the intimate wilderness of Chalk Creek Falls in Leadville. Multi-day trips are offered in Western Colorado’s Rifle Mountain Park, and the remote and rugged San Juan Mountains in Lake City. If you are interested in taking a day off from skiing in Vail or Summit County, ice climbing provides a truly unique Colorado high country experience. Few other adventure sports compare to the exhilaration of climbing at a high-altitude icefall in one of the most beautiful alpine settings on Earth. Consider ice climbing an opportunity to expand your comfort zone—no matter how big or small it is. Ice climbing with Apex is truly for all abilities and experience levels. Whether you are a first-timer, an intermediate hoping to improve technique, or advanced ice climber looking for major ascents in the Colorado Rockies, our guides consider your ice climbing goals and develop a trip that both educates and entertains. We customize each trip, centering the experience on each client’s goals. Start the day by meeting your guides at our Avon office, a mile east of Beaver Creek Resort. We outfit you, identify your goals for the trip, and then head to the trailhead for a thorough orientation. Guides will educate your private group on how to swing tools, kick with crampons, how to tie in, and how the belay system works. Expect to learn how to manage risk and navigate areas with varying degrees of exposure. If your goal is to gain comfort, increase overall climbing knowledge, or improve rope management, Apex guides will build that into your daily program. Our crew makes sure you stay warm, have enough food and water at all times, so you can focus on having the time of your life.”

 

ICE FISHING

We might generally associate ice fishing with Nordic countries and people who need to survive in harsh climates, but there are people who enjoy the pass-time right here in our state. In fact, there’s an organization called Ice Fish Colorado, an alias of Sport Fish Colorado, which was created in late 2009 by Robby Richardson.

 

Yellow Scene: On a competitive level, what is ice fishing?

Robby Richardson: The sport of ice fishing has gained a lot of momentum and popularity over the last few years in Colorado and as a result, there are a lot of competitive ice fishing tournaments at several different lakes and reservoirs. Some of them have hundreds of competitors and prizes worth thousands of dollars. Each tournament has a different format. Some are individual events and others have a team format, but all of them are very competitive and typically have great prizes.

 

YS: Who takes part? How easy is it?

RR: Ice fishing is an easy sport that can be fun for people of all ages and experience levels. I have friends and clients who have had their first experience with me or have been doing it for decades. With a little bit of equipment (owned, borrowed, or rented), anybody can venture out on one of our many lakes and reservoirs and have a very good shot at catching some trout through the ice.

 

YS: How competitive is it in Colorado?

RR: Ice fishing seems to get more competitive each year, especially on the limited number of lakes and reservoirs close to the metropolitan areas. As a result, more anglers are fishing one or several of the many ice fishing tournaments across the state or traveling further into the mountains to try new or “less” pressured waters.

 

YS: How successful are local participants?

RR: Success depends on a number of things. The body of water and the experience of the angler are two major factors. Some of our lakes have good quantities of smaller fish that provide good action, while others are tougher to fish, but give you a better chance at a quality or big fish. Overall, Colorado is loaded with plenty of opportunities at plenty of different species making “success” a common theme.

 

YS: What gear do you need? Is it expensive? Where can you do it?

RR: All you need to get started is spud bar or manual auger (depending on ice thickness) to make a hole, an ice scooper to clean your hole, and a rod and reel with a small jig or spoon tied on. A shorter “ice fishing” rod is preferable, but not mandatory. Common bait choices are meal worms, wax worms, a piece of shrimp, night crawler, or powerbait. There are a lot more equipment options like heaters, ice huts, gas augers, and fish finders, but these items are luxury items and shouldn’t be purchased until you know that you enjoy the sport. All of this equipment can be borrowed from a friend or rented at various locations across the state. Be sure to wear warm, preferably water proof boots and layers like you are going sledding or skiing.

 

YS: What would you say to someone thinking of trying it?

RR: Ice fishing is a bucket list item for most of my clients and for good reason. With the right equipment, you can be sitting in an ice hut in your tee shirt, looking through a slab of ice at fish swarming your lure. It’s like looking into an aquarium and an experience that everybody needs to try at least once. Not to mention, fresh fish pulled out of mid 30 degree water tastes the best.

 

SHOVEL RACING

Shovel racing isn’t as easy as it sounds. The objective is simple, get to the bottom of the hill before your opponent does. But the execution is where the challenge comes in. The only thing propelling you down a snowy hill is your momentum, and a shovel. Think sledding but on a smaller surface, and a shovel handle escaping in front of you between your legs, used as a makeshift steering contraption. It’s sledding for the poor, but has been taken over by the masses, well the brave and semi-stupid masses.

 

 Shovel racing became popular in the 1970s at a New Mexico Ski resort when the employees realized the efficiency of shovel transportation. Popularity continued to grow for two decades, when it eventually got picked up by the X Games in 1997. The game didn’t last long however, after one of the racers got injured and it was decided that the game was too risky.

 

So, ladies and gentlemen, this sport is not for the faint of heart. Essentially, those who decide to partake, are racing down a hill on a shovel with a waxed underside for increased speed, and hoping they don’t hit a bank wall or a tree. Some of the elite shovel race competitors can reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour.

 

Safety is key in all of this. If you’re looking to start shovel racing to pass the time this winter, practice a lot. Start out on smaller hills and larger shovels. Then find the right size of shovel, and start taking risks. Not all at once, but gradually make your way to the bigger hills.

 

DODGEBALL

Back in 2004, the film Dodgeball introduced us to the five D’s of dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge. It was an important message to all those carrying their favorite grade school game into their adult lives. It also catapulted the quirky, somewhat dangerous, game into the limelight.

Eight years ago, the Boulder Parks and Recreational department decided to give the game a try. So they opened up a league in the late fall, that would run through the winter. That league flourished.

 

AND MORE:

LUGE

If you’ve seen the Winter Olympics, you’ve likely seen this event which comedian Billy Connolly describes as “riding down a hill on a tea-tray.” It’s a single person sled, which you lie down on. There are plenty of Alpine slides on the state where you could try it.

snow-mobiling

Exactly what it sounds like. Sit on the snow-mobile and ride. Colorado is packed with appropriate places.

skeleton

Like luge, the skeleton is a light sled but this one you lie on face-down. Again, those Alpine slides will come in useful.

snow shoeing

Yup, it’s walking in the snow. You wear special shoes but still, it’s walking in the snow. Want to try it? Buy the shoes, go for a walk.

speed-skating

Competitive racing on specially designed skates. If you want to try it, the Colorado Speed Skating Club will help you out.

 

 

Author

Brett Calwood
Brett Callwood is an English journalist, copy writer, editor and author, currently living and working in Los Angeles. He is the music editor with the LA Weekly. He was previously a reporter at the Longmont Times-Call and Daily Camera, the music editor at the Detroit Metro Times and editor-in-chief at Yellow Scene magazine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Callwood

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