The 7th annual Mammoth Winter Biathlon was great- if you like skiing, guns, and sunshine.
The Mammoth Winter Biathlon is the biggest biathlon race in North America (by volume, not necessarily competitiveness), and it is easily the most fun. I was flown out by the man who puts this race on to help with shooting clinics, act as a range safety officer, and then compete in an exhibition race, hilariously entitled the ‘Uber Elite.’ California – in general – has had a sub par snow year, so instead of hosting the races at the Nordic venue, the race organizers built a range on top of the mountain. It is a little hard to see in this photo shamelessly taken from a Google search, but the range was at Outpost 14 (the white box on the right side of the image).
The dedication and manpower available from the volunteers and organizers was staggering. Hosting a biathlon race requires a lot of equipment – targets, ropes, shooting mats, timing equipment, sound systems, etc. Not only did the organizers acquire all of this, they moved it up a mountain – 9500 ft high- and also surveyed and excavated a 20 point shooting range. I was truly blown away with the passion and excitement for my sport.
Having the races on top of the mountain made for a breathtaking venue, but racing at 9500 ft is challenging.
Most days I decided to ski up the downhill trails to the venue, but on race day I hitched a ride on the Sherpa.
My race was not my most glorious. I don’t have much experience racing at that kind of altitude. Not only is it taxing aerobically, but the lack of oxygen – exacerbated by the the strain of racing – actually begins to impair your vision. It was a fantastic way to learn how to handle the extremes.
I have an old friend now living in Mammoth Lakes, so I extended my stay by a few days to see him. His dad was visiting that weekend, and I was so happy to have both of them cheering for me in my race.
The three of us went for a relaxing hike/walk up around Convict Lake. In classic western style, the derivation of the name ‘Convict Lake’ comes from a bloody shootout in 1871 between convicts, escaped from a Carson City jail, and the Sheriff tracking them down. I’m not kidding. Apparently there is a movie loosely based on the story.
I spent the next few days running and soaking up some Vitamin D before eventually venturing up to the local XC center.
The trail system isn’t immense, but it was immaculately maintained. All the trails meander around beautiful lakes, high in the mountain pass.
On this ski, I realized Mammoth is a little mind-numbingly gorgeous. Monotonously stunning.
Thank you, Mammoth Biathlon, for hosting a tremendous event. I hope you invite me again in the future.