This winter, instructors from the French Ski School on the Beille Plateau in Ariège introduced biathlon to groups of all levels at 1,800 meters altitude. Cross-country skiing on the feet and rifle in hand, some used the advice of a former triple world champion.
After one last acceleration, Philippe throws his ski – it’s an expression he stretches his leg – to cross the finish line before his last opponent. Effort rewarded, he does not finish last. Every smile he receives applause from his relay team. They also defeated, despite the defeat. The good mood prevails on the Beille plateau, at an altitude of 1,800 m, at the end of an initial biathlon session.
After 2 hours of skiing and then shooting at targets – almost – as professional biathletes, the ten participants – or rather skiing – ran a relay. Here is the gift offered by Laure and Olivier Bosc, instructors at the French ski school in Beille. In return, they received smiles and thanks from each of their students.
The session begins at 1 p.m., Saturday, March 19, under a sun trying to break through the clouds. After picking up their passports, their pairs of skis, poles and boots (see box), the ten customers join the two instructors dressed in red. Among them eight beginners and two insiders, from Nantes, Marc and Audrey.
23.50 euros introduction
To participate in an initial biathlon session on the Beille Plateau, you must pay 23.50 euros: 11.50 euros for the package and 12 euros for the rental of skis, boots and poles. Whether the athletes choose classic skis (with weight, for beginners) or ice skating (smooth), the price is the same.
Sabrina, a Toulousaine, came alone, “in scout”, to test the biathlon. She had wanted him for years. Stéphane is accompanied by Julie, his sister. He had already tried discipline in primary school and used the weekend to create other memories before returning to Paris, where he works. Philippe lives in Foix. He discovers biathlon with Juliette, Inès and Xiang Yu, three other beginners. The tenth participant writes these words.
The less experienced put on classic cross-country skis, with scales, designed to advance in parallel tracks. With, the movement is close to going. The most experienced advances on so-called skating skis, smooth, with the skating technique.
At their own pace, everyone reaches the launch pad, a few hundred meters away. The first drops make it possible to test the impenetrability of the outfits. Laure Bosc has just explained how to get up if you lose your balance. Now it’s time to practice.
Shooting at 10 meters with air rifle
One of the biggest difficulties with classic cross-country skiing is moving forward while staying centered. Thinner than alpine skis, they require better balance. Time to master the movement, a few bodies fall.
After a small climb – be careful, it slides despite the weight – the launch pad appears. The 5-hole goal is not 50 meters away, just like the professional skiathletes. “They shoot at 22 Long Rifles on 11 cm black circles if they are standing or 4 cm if they are lying down,” specifies Laure Bosc, former triple world champion among juniors. We have to shoot 10 meters with a 3.2 kg air rifle. The targets are copies of them at 50 meters, with a diameter of between 3 and 4 cm.In other words, they are denser but smaller so that the visual impression is similar.But it is still easier to hit them.
Before firing, participants must know their dominant eye, the aiming eye. The “right eye” – eight out of ten this Saturday afternoon – is luckier than the “left eye”. Since the shooting ranges are to the left of the slopes, the unlucky ones, including Inès and Juliette, have to make a U-turn to get into shooting position. This maneuver results in a loss of time. “The union is asking that we get young people used to shooting to the right,” comments Laure Bosc. Seconds are precious in biathlon.
Harder to aim standing and out of breath
Once lying down – diagonally on the mat, right index finger on the trigger, left hand under the rifle and the weapon pressed against the left shoulder to the “right eye” – it must be straightened. For this, three elements need to be adjusted: a first hole, behind which the eye is located; with another hole, a circle at the end of the rifle, says the sight; and a third hole, the black circle of the target. If everything is centered, the shot should clear the circle. Attentively, students project themselves onto the launch pad. Everyone has seen biathlon on television, few have ever hit the trigger.
To become familiar with the rifle, Laure Bosc offers the first two series of five shots with inclination: the first with support, on a wooden structure; the other without using only the elbows to keep the balance. Between the two, the participants have the choice: Ski flat on a track of 150 m or on another slightly longer of 300 m, with a climb. Decidedly, the majority choose the most sporty route. Some are already comfortable on skis.
Prone shooting with support is a formality: Most ski athletes clear four of the five targets, or even more. Laure Bosc praises the level of the group, homogeneously. The second shot is more complicated. The first 0/5 are displayed. It laughs, it encourages and it bedroom. Laure Bosc, she relativizes. It’s learning.
After one hour of lessons, the instructor gives advice on how to improve the shooting precision: “You have to press the trigger very gently to avoid a finger stroke and make the rifle move (without support, it happens quickly). It is also necessary to center the three aiming elements, it is not enough to adjust them. “Tested and approved.
After a few hundred meters on Beille’s groomed slopes, the heartbeat goes faster. One of the difficulties, breathless, is not moving too much gun in hand. Advice from the professional: “You should breathe with your stomach and adjust your rifle to the movement of your breath,” says Laure Bosc with her hand on her stomach. When we are ready, we stop breathing for a maximum of two or three seconds and we shoot … No more (smile). »
A relay in a good mood to end the session
Participants test shooter standing, after shooting lying down. Skiing parallel to the goal and wedged firmly on the mat, they are instructed to remain straight, upper body facing the goal, arching the back slightly. Front hand under the rifle (the left for the “right eye”), stick the elbow on the carrying arm (always left) to the chest to try to stabilize it. Since it is complicated to be quiet, it is a matter of slowing down the movement, the eye of the viewfinder, to gently pass in front of the target and trigger. Return at 0/5 but the smiles do not leave the faces.
The session ends with a stint “with nice, sweet penalty rounds”, joker Laure Bosc. The principle: every missed goal results in a penalty round. Divided into three teams – one of four and two of three – the ten participants have the opportunity to let go one last time. In the end, Philippe triumphs. Or almost as he allows his team to become number two. But the most important thing is somewhere else. Before “goodbye”, shortly after 3 pm, Sabrina repeats that she “regaled”. The smiles of others convey the same joy.