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Muzzleloading Biathlon in Steamboat a cherished tradition

Paul Yonekawa competes in the 2013 Muzzleloading Biathlon.
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— After 40 years, Paul Yonekawa and Bob Brassell were not about to let this kooky tradition die.

The International Muzzleloading Biathlon combines shooting guns, cross country skiing and historical re-enactment.

“My goal at this point is to keep it going,” said Yonekawa, a longtime organizer. “If we hit 50 years, that would be something to be proud of, even if there are only three competitors.”



The 41st annual event will take place Saturday at a ranch about 20 minutes southwest of Steamboat Springs. To get there, spectators should look for a parking lot built about 1 1/2 miles south of 31595 Routt County Road 35. The race will start at 1 p.m. and competitors can preregister at Elk River Guns, 1320 Dream Island Plaza. The cost to participate is $20, and it is free to spectate.

For years, the biathlon’s crazy nature at Howelsen Hill made it a good fit for Winter Carnival, but last year the event was separated from Winter Carnival because of the cost of insurance. This year, the event again will be held the same weekend as Winter Carnival will not be affiliated with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club event.



“If the event could help the Winter Sports Club, we would be happy to be associated with it,” Yonekawa said.

Last year, biathlon organizers found a new home for the event at the Routt County Rifle Club, but poor snowfall this past January meant that location would not work for this year’s event.

“We weren’t even sure we were going to have it because snow conditions were so bad, so it’s kind of been a scramble to put it together,” Yonekawa said.

Ed’s Excavating once again has stepped up to groom the course.

“It truly is locals coming together to make it work,” Yonekawa said.

During the race, each competitor will ski four 1.5-kilometer laps for a total of about 3.7 miles. They will stop to take three shots at three targets on each of the first three laps, and if they still have unbroken targets, they may take three more shots at the end of the fourth lap.

It is a 25-yard shot to the 2-inch targets.

“If there is more than one person who hits nine targets, we make smaller targets,” Yonekawa said. “It’s a challenge to hit all nine targets.”

The three categories of competition include the primitive class, which requires that contestants’ skis to be wooden and predate the 10th Mountain Division (World War II) era. Poles must be of natural materials, boots must be leather and bindings must be cable style.

The transitional category allows narrow, wooden touring skis, leather boots and 75mm Nordic norm bindings. Finally, the open category allows state-of-the-art modern gear. However, the skating technique is not allowed in any of the classes — classic diagonal stride only.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland


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