December 15, 2017

Biathlon Gear

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Skate Skis

Skate skis are required for biathlon, although all biathletes should also train using classic skis for overall fitness, balance and technique (refer to the Telemark Racers website for information on classic skis).

Skate skis have a number of differences from classic skis. The skis are shorter and have a different camber profile – since these skis are only glide waxed (no grip), they are designed to give maximum glide in all conditions. The ski tips usually do not curl up as much as classic skis as the skate motion does not elevate the tail of the ski off the snow. Skate skis are stiffer torsionally, as the skate motion creates more twist in the ski.  The folks at Fresh Air Experience or Kelowna Cycle are great at helping you find the right ski.  Check out this video for more information.

Length:  Skate skis are quite a bit shorter than classic skis and are  usually about 3 or 4 cm taller than your height.

Width: The width of skate ski ranges about 41 mm to 45 mm wide.  The narrow skis allow for maximum glide speed and are lighter in weight. Given the constant lifting of the entire ski off the snow with skate technique, lighter skis are very important.

Sidecut: Most skating skis have no sidecut at all, meaning they are the same width at the tips and tails as the waist of the ski. This gives the skier maximum control when setting the ski on edge when skating.

Camber: This is the amount of arch built into a ski. Skate skis have a single camber, much like an alpine ski (very different from classic skis, which have a double camber to provide a more pronounced “grip wax pocket” in the central area of the ski).  This flatter profile allows the athlete to push off the ski edge much more efficiently.

Grinds: High end skis come with a base structure already ground into the ski base, to improve glide performance.  Our coaches can assess the base of your skis to determine if a base grind would be helpful.  We usually get grinds done before the start of the competition season.

Hot Box: new skis need to get wax driven deep into the base.  While you can do this yourself with multiple hot wax applications, a faster and more effective solution is to “hot box” the skis – basically a coat of glide wax is applied to the skis, then the skis are “baked” in a heated box for a period of time, melting the wax and allowing for deep penetration into the ski base.

Skate Ski Waxes

A bit of good news here – skate ski waxing is pretty straight forward as one only needs glide wax and the entire base of the ski is glide waxed. At the beginner level, waxing isn’t too expensive…   See our section on “Waxing Skis” for detailed information.

Skate Ski Boots

Yup, the boots are different too!  Skate ski boots provide a higher degree of ankle support, allowing front/rear flexibility and preventing side-to-side ankle roll.  The boots are taller to support the ankle and provide the athlete with superb control on the ski. When sizing, make sure the boots are not too tight and have room for good thermal socks or you will get very cold feet at the range.

Skate Ski Bindings

Yes, you need special bindings for skate skis.  These come either as Salomon or New Nordic Norm (NNN).  There are changes afoot with Salomon, so their system might be changing in the near future. Make sure the bindings match the boots – these are not interchangeable systems.  The bindings help keep the ski closer to the boot at all times, and provide much more lateral support.  Both systems are excellent and there is as usual a range of options and prices.  The more expensive bindings will be lighter weight and lower profile.

Skate Poles

The main difference from classic poles is the length – these are quite a bit longer.  The rule of thumb is up to your lips in length when you are on skis.  Otherwise, pretty much the same as classic poles – the more you pay, the lighter and stiffer the pole.  For biathlon, you want to avoid straps that are difficult to get on and off as the athlete is constantly taking poles on and off.  You can purchase special biathlon straps – they are simple straps that are fairly wide at the wrist.

Biathlon Rifles

These are highly specialized rifles, designed specifically for biathlon.  The rifles are .22 caliber and must weigh at least 3.5 kg.  Ammunition must be LR rim fire bullets.  The rifles used by most athletes at Telemark Biathlon are either Anschutz or Izhmash.  The Anschutz is generally considered to be the  superior rifle but it is  much more expensive. Rough numbers are Izhmash at $2500 and Anschutz at $5500 fully outfitted.  The good news is that used biathlon rifles sell very quickly and at a very good price, so it is a good investment.  You will need a PAL to purchase a rifle.

You will also need a shooting cuff if you are 13 or older.  This is an armband that goes on one arm above the bicep and allows the rifle to be supported when shooting in the prone position.

Clothing

In a word: layers. Lots of layers.  Cotton = bad, wool/silk/synthetics/lycra = good.  Remember, in training the athletes spend a considerable amount of time lying or standing still while shooting targets, so being able to stay warm is critical.  If competing, having a Telemark Racing suit is great but not mandatory.  Make sure to always wear a hat, bring extra gloves, and have a warm coat to put on after the training session.  Talk to the coaches, we’ll help you determine how to dress properly.

 Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is really important, so having a water bottle at the range is a must.  Some like to wear a waist water bottle holder – having an insulated one is best as cold days tend to freeze the water (kind of hard to drink in solid form…).

Roller Skis

What do you do when there is no snow?  For the competitive biathlete, roller skis are a great option for dryland training.  We use skate roller skis (you can also get classic roller skis, but for biathletes skate skis are usually enough).  Check out the resources found at crosscountrybc.ca – roller-skiing.  The x-c race team usually does a team purchase in late March, so watch their website for details (we usually try to post the information on our website as well).  You will also need to change your ski pole tips to road tips – these can be purchased at Kelowna Cycle and it is easy to change your pole tips over.  The roller ski safety policy can be found here.