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What sets Camp Gorton’s Venture Biathlon Challenge apart from other outings are the skilled instructors who teach shooting sports and cross-country skiing technique to attendees. After a weekend of practice, the teens have new skills to take home with them — igniting their passion to learn more. Jim Griffin, Five River Council’s shooting sports committee chairman, introduces the group to firearm handling, proper shooting stance and other important safety les- sons. At center left, 14-year-old Thomas Noyes, from Crew 15 in Elmira, N.Y., verifies his dominant eye to determine the best way for him to hold a rifle. After being fitted for skis, boots and poles, Nordic-skiing enthusiast Peter “Doc” Parken shows the group how to apply wax to the bot- tom of his cross-country skis.

afraid to handle a firearm?” Griffin asks. He explains that many people fear the recoil and the noise, which is why most beginners start with either a .22-caliber rifle or 20-gauge shotgun. “The recoil is a lot less, and they are easier for beginners to handle. But some of you guys are experienced, so we’ve also got a 30-30 rifle and a semi- automatic for you to try.” Most of a person’s fears erode when he or she learns safety skills and sees someone properly handle a firearm, both part of the two-day learning session. “If you don’t want to shoot anymore after trying it once, you don’t have to. But the key is to at least try.” At the front of the room — point-

ing unloaded firearms into the empty back corner — each teen practices holding a .22 rifle and 20-gauge shotgun. Griffin corrects posture, noting that properly holding the firearm often poses the greatest chal- lenge to new shooters. “The first thing a beginner will want to do when he picks up a firearm is to put a finger on the trigger,” he explains. “We’re going to practice proper form now, and you’ll practice it again tomorrow.”

ON SATURDAY MORNING, partici- pants split into two parts: one group completes the second section of the required shooting-sports orientation,

while the other learns how to cross- country ski and snowshoe. Mother Nature adds her own twist to the morning with temperatures creeping into the lower 40s. The sticky, melting snow might not last until the biath- lon, set to begin just after lunchtime. But Peter “Doc” Parken doesn’t let

the weather slow him down. Indoors and away from the noise of the shoot- ing ranges, Parken hoists a featherlight Nordic ski onto a wooden wax bench. The bench sits atop a table on which Parken, an avid cross-country skier, closely inspects each ski before turning them over to the awaiting teens. “It’s wet and slushy outside, so we’re going to use wax to help these skis glide a little better in the snow,” explains Parken, whose attention zeros in on applying gummy liquid to the center of a ski. “This type of wax helps prevent snow from sticking to the ski and amassing below your foot, where all of your weight sits. If you get a bunch of snow stuck on there, you won’t go anywhere fast.” Parken repeats this delicate process on about 10 pairs of skis, while others start choosing suit- able shoes from the multicolored mass of Nordic ski boots on the floor. All of today’s equipment is cour-

tesy of the longtime cross-country skier. (Which means some of the size 7 feet end up in a men’s size 10.) But


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