Organizer confirms US Biathlon National Championships in Fort Kent will take place March 22-24

1 month ago

FORT KENT, Maine – While this year’s warm weather has canceled winter events such as the Can-Am sled dog races and dealt a blow to the local snowmobile season, the US Biathlon National Championships will go on as scheduled March 22-24, the organizer confirmed.

The event will bring about 160 participants to town, not including families and guests. Some teams are coming from as far as Norway, Alaska, and several Canadian provinces including Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

The three-day event includes a sprint competition on March 22, a pursuit competition on March 23, and relay races on March 24. Biathlon combines cross country skiing and rifle target shooting.

The Fort Kent Outdoor Center, which will host the biathlon, has the capacity to create and stockpile snow. Carl Theriault, who is chief of competition and a member of the outdoor center’s Board of DIrectors, said this helped them ensure they could still host the event this year.

The weather also looks promising for the event. James Sinko, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Caribou, said the forecast for March 22 shows a slight chance of snow showers with partly sunny skies and temperatures on the colder side. 

FORT KENT, Maine — February 27, 2024 — Athletes in late February are pictured here practicing for the upcoming US Biathlon National Championships at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center. (Courtesy of the Fort Kent Outdoor Center)

Sinko said it is too far out to make an accurate forecast for March 23 and 24, but that the pattern currently supports minimal precipitation and near-normal temperatures for this time of year.

Prior to the biathlon, Sinko said there are a few days, such as Monday, with predicted snow showers, but temperatures will be above freezing during the day. Some snow showers are predicted during the overnight period, during which temperatures will be below freezing. He said this may lead to some additional snow accumulation.

As of Friday, no drastic weather events are predicted in the days leading up to the biathlon.

Theriault said they received about eight inches of snow this month, which significantly helped their efforts.

“I think we could have done it without the eight inches,” Theriault said, “it just wouldn’t have been as good.” 

He said he decided to make the snow to save the event, but there was no guarantee that they would see any additional natural snow.

“The eight inches was the frosting on the cake, more or less,” he said.

They created three large piles of snow by running snow guns, which create snow by mixing water and air, for 48 hours straight during a couple of particularly cold days. From there, they used payloaders to place snow where it was needed.

“We didn’t need snow everywhere,” he said. “We just needed some mostly in the sloping areas that face south, where the sun burns it.”

Once the snow was dumped, outdoor center volunteers used groomers to spread it out and smooth it over.

He said the spreading took about two 14-hour nights.

“It’s quite a project,” he said.

WIthout the ability to make snow, he said they likely would not have been able to host the event. Leading up to the biathlon, he said people in town are excited to be able to have an event this month. Theriault said the loss of the Can-Am was hard on the economy, and the loss of snowmobile business dealt an even bigger economic hit since it brings in continuous revenue. 

“It’s nice to have at least one event,” he said. “And this is not something that happens every year. This is something that happens every six or seven years here in Fort Kent.”