Paul Yonekawa pulls away from the starting line during the 2013 Muzzleloading Biathlon.

Joel Reichenberger/file

Paul Yonekawa pulls away from the starting line during the 2013 Muzzleloading Biathlon.

Muzzleloading Biathlon regroups to celebrate its 40th anniversary with a bang

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What: 40th annual International Muzzleloading Biathlon: Skiers, wearing period clothing and using vintage skis, boots and poles, ski a four-lap race, stopping three times to fire at targets using vintage-style rifles.

Where: Routt County Rifle Club, northside of U.S. Highway 40 just beyond M&M Auto salvage yard at 4100 W. Lincoln Ave.

When: Race starts at 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Preregister: Elk River Guns, 1320 Dream Island Plaza

Display and barter session: 3:30 p.m. Steamboat Pilot & Today conference room, 1901 Curve Plaza

Awards and raffle: 5 p.m. in the conference room

— Steamboat’s traditional International Muzzleloading Biathlon will see its 40th reunion this weekend, after all.

With the Routt County Rifle Club hosting the 2014 competition on Steamboat’s west side, and Ed’s Excavating grooming the course, the race will happen during the Saturday of Winter Carnival, it just won’t be part of the carnival.

The Muzzleloading Biathlon combines a cross-country ski race on vintage equipment with target shooting using either black powder rifles or smooth bore muskets. Contestants wear as much 19th century clothing as they can muster, and many resemble mountain men.

In a ski town in which fur trappers were among the earliest Europeans to visit the upper Yampa Valley, the Muzzleloading Biathlon has been a great fit for the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival during the past four decades. But the need to insure the event under the policy of the host Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club for $2,000 meant the biathlon could not be part of the 101st Winter Carnival.

“In this day and age, this kind of event reflects positively on shooting as a sport and its history,” organizer Paul Yonekawa told the Steamboat Today on Jan. 17 when the news broke. “There’s a lot of different opinions out there about firearms, but that’s what built this country — that’s how we survived.”

SSWSC Executive Director Jim Boyne sought an individual sponsor to cover the insurance costs but was unsuccessful. So, the event begins a new chapter in its history.

Yonekawa said Monday the venue at the rifle range is a good, strong alternative.

“We have safety zones, range officers on scene, and there’s plenty of public parking,” he said. “We’re planning for 25 competitors.”

And Yonekawa said he expects at least three women to take part this year.

Each racer 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.

The three categories of competition include the primitive class, which requires that contestants’ skis 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 Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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