|THE FIRST EVER BIATHLON EVENT IN THE USA WAS HELD AT CAMP HALE, CO in FEBRUARY 1957.
Charlie Brainard, pictured, shooting prone on the first biathlon course ever built in the USA at Camp Hale.
Charlie won the A class made up of fellow troopers.
Kent School & Yale- Captain ’55 & ’62. U.S Army 10th 56 -58 Colorado/Alaska
I call the event “FIRE & ICE”… conventional XC race interspersed with a “centering down” akin to watch repair of your Rolex in the snow 4x’s. Some contrast. I didn’t have any input into designing the course in the fall of ’56 other than as an observer..20K, as I recall, with 4 rifle ranges spread out. 30-06 rifle safety, much bridging of creeks with Aspen trees, some grading/clearing etc. The design was done by our Finnish contingent, U S officers & survivors of the Russo/Finnish War. Majors. Lahdenpera, Aculqla, Pettijari & other unpronounceables. By snowfall the course was ready.
Mountain & Cold Weather Training Command, the link between the two 10th’ s (Camp Hale & Ft Drum) first “ran the course” in our Ski Championships of ’57. We had our own downhill & slalom events, but invited the local college XC teams to the biathlon. DU with Willy Schaeffler; CU with Tom Jacobs (later Reliable Racing founder); Western State w/ Sven Wik. Wyoming U. brought their own hunting rifles mostly mod #70 Winchesters 30-06 cal; XC racing gear and skis. They raced as Open Class while we “The Troops” , raced in Class “A” with vastly inferior stuff: M-1 rifles, all 9 1/2 lbs, “Mickey Mouse” boots (rubber with no support) but good for -50F. Our skis solid hickory, no edges; pine tar bottoms, and a “leather thing” called a balata binding. Leather laced heel & toe, connected by a piece of flat fire hose.. Climbing & downhill control was extremely difficult…”Live – it- up”… many crashes.
The 4 ranges were between 50 and 150 meters, standing, kneeling, sitting & prone..5 shots @ 12 inch bulleyes with one minute added for each miss. They were grouped in sets of 5, so careful counting was important if you were bib #23.
On the day of the 1st ever biathlon in USA- February 17, 1957- I guess about 40 of us “troopers” raced together (voluntary) with 25 college boys, them first at 1 minute intervals. I ran 17th, a minute behind Sgt. Marvin Crawford from Steamboat and an Olympic Nordic combined racer. I figured he might be P.O.ed having to run in such lousy gear, so if I could keep him in contact, I might have a shot. I hung on to Marv, came in 2nd on time and won the class on better riflery. The trophy hangs on my cabin wall in Bondville, Vt.
Only 57 years ago.. Not “yumping ” but SKIING & FUN
|Nordic combined skier Marvin Crawford, pictured above, helped pace Brainard to his biathlon victory in 1957. Crawford was a 14 time US national champion and member of the 1956 Olympic team,|
Follow-up from Charlie, setting the scene-
A little background: The USA, was hosting the’ 60 Olympics @ Squaw Valley, CA. where biathlon was to be introduced as a medal event at the Games; sponsored by the European nations, but almost unknown here. Facing the Olympic Committee in the fall of ’57, no squad from which to build a team nor any facilities. The question was ” HOW ” & “WHO”? Suddenly, a light bulb. Don’t we have some mountain troops at Camp Hale with bulldozers & time on their hands? This was the first 20K biathlon course in USA.with/ 4 ranges scattered along every 3 or 4K’s. Only there because the government owned the land, dependable winter snow, no complaining civilians, 150 troopers with bulldozers and time to construct in 6 -8 weeks from mid-October until real winter came in December. It was a “practice run” etc for the Olympic course at Squaw 3 years down the road. I believe our Olympic squad of “hopefuls” relocated and trained there prior to the Games. All college types. I was out of the Army & skiing for “The Eli’s” by winter ’60.
|Chalie, pictured above, skied four events at Yale and was captain of the ski team as a senior in 1962.|