By Bella Butler EBS EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
BIG SKY – The U.S. Biathlon Association recently announced that they’ve selected West Yellowstone to host its 2020 National Championships. The event, scheduled for March 25-29, will take place at the Rendezvous Ski Trails, a recreation area treasured by Nordic athletes throughout the region.
Organizers will release the race schedule and registration information as the event nears, but the association has said there will be opportunities for both elite athletes and beginners alike to participate.
Dating back to 1767, when the first biathlon event was recorded near the Norway-Sweden border, the sport combines skiing with marksmanship in a timed event. Biathlon was added to the 1960 Winter Olympics and the sport is rooted in Scandinavian lore, named in honor of Ullr, the Norse god of skiing and hunting.
The 2020 competition will be jointly hosted by Bozeman’s Crosscut Mountain Sports Center, a nonprofit that operates the sports training and recreational facility adjacent to Bridger Bowl, and the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation, according to WYSEF Program Director Toni Brey.
“The West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation is thrilled to have been selected to host an event like the 2020 National Biathlon Championships,” Brey said. “We look forward to working closing with Crosscut to offer a high level of competition for the experienced biathlete as well as events and clinics for the novice biathlete.”
USBA Chairman Robert Hall believes having the event in such close proximity to Big Sky will provide a special opportunity for area residents to travel south on Highway 191 and enjoy the unique spectacle that biathlon provides. Hall, a Big Sky resident himself, also said the event will also give folks a chance to get acquainted with some of the U.S. athletes prior to the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where Hall projects the U.S. team will perform well.
“Everyone owes it to themselves to do the hour drive and go watch,” he said.
Lowell Bailey, the U.S. Biathlon team’s high-performance director from Lake Placid, New York, became the first American in history to win a biathlon World Championship in 2017. Bailey considered retiring in 2016, but a new biathlon venture kept him active in the sport and pushed him to his 2017 victory when he aided in the creation of Crosscut Mountain Sports Center and served as the organization’s first executive director. He also serves as athlete representative for U.S. Biathlon Association as well as the International Biathlon Union.