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Skiers broaden their skills
Fort Providence athletes learn biathlon at Hay River event

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cold temperatures and a cancelled event weren't enough to keep young cross-country skiers from Fort Providence from learning about ski biathlon.

NNSL photo/graphic

Neizha Walker, front, of Fort Providence practises using a biathlon rifle during a trip seven members of Deh Gah Cross Country took to Hay River to learn about biathlon. In the background, James Hatch assists Jillian Williams and Jeremy Keilstra helps Luke Bonnetrouge. - photo courtesy of Deh Gah Cross Country

Seven members of Deh Gah Cross Country were expecting to participate in the Polar Cup in Hay River on Dec. 8 and 9 to get their first introduction to biathlon. The event was cancelled, however, as temperatures dipped below -30 C.

Despite that setback, the skiers learned the basics of biathlon on Dec. 8 after Pat Bobinski, a Hay River coach, organized a one-day development camp specifically for them. Bobinski started with firearms safety and then covered the prone shooting technique used in biathlon.

"He did an amazing job at simplifying safety and making it fun. The kids loved it," said James Hatch, a coach with Deh Gah Cross Country.

The students practised their new skills with .22 biathlon rifles at a range. To stay warm in the -31 C weather they took frequent breaks in a heated cabin.

The trip also gave the students their first chance to ski in track. In Fort Providence the team practises primarily on snowmobile trails.

"It was exciting for them," Hatch said.

It was too cold, however, for the students to combine the skiing and shooting aspects of biathlon.

Wyatt Causa and Shannon Bonnetrouge, both 10, said the most important lesson they learned from Bobinski was not to point the rifles at people. Both skiers said it was a little tricky to learn how to shoot in a prone position on the ground.

"I think it's great," said Causa about biathlon.

Causa is eager to do more of the sport after hitting three out of five targets. Bonnetrouge said the trip was "fantastic." Now in her second year of skiing, Bonnetrouge said her favourite part is going down hills.

Deh Gah Cross Country was created last year. The community has a history of cross-country skiing clubs although there hadn't been one in recent years, said Hatch.

Now in its second year the club has 32 members, most between the ages between 7 and 11 although the club is open to everyone. Members ski twice a week.

The club is encouraging its second-year skiers to get involved in ski biathlon. One of the club's goals this year is to travel more, including making a few more trips to Hay River this season to get additional biathlon instruction.

The club will be hosting its second annual development clinic in Fort Providence from Jan. 19 to 20. A number of instructors will be leading the clinic and anyone is welcome to participate, said Hatch.

Plans are also in the works to take the whole club to Yellowknife in March for ski races there.

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