Biathlon

Rob Rosser, president of the Casper Mountain Biathlon Club, poses on the future site of a biathlon range on Casper Mountain. Construction is set to begin this month.

Dan Cepeda, Star-Tribune

What was once a pipe dream is now reality: Casper Mountain will have its own world-class biathlon and multi-sport venue.

Contracts are signed and construction starts this month, with an anticipated project end date of Nov. 1.

Harry Brubaker, a National Guard biathlon athlete, first had the idea in the '70s. It wasn’t until recently when he and Rob Rosser, president of Casper Mountain Biathlon Club, put the idea into action.

“We’re making (a venue) that’s going to be among the best in North America and even the world,” Rosser, 46, said. “We have a big vision and we have an amazing amount of interest and support for a sport that’s not well known in the U.S. But it’s the most popular sport in Europe in the wintertime, and the second-most popular sport year-round only to soccer.”

Biathlon is an Olympic and Paralympic sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Rosser is a five-time national champion and was a member of the 1998 Olympic biathlon team.

He hopes the venue will generate more interest for the sport in America.

“It’s going to be great for the sport for the country. It’s going to be great for Casper,” Rosser said, who is also a coach for the U.S. Paralympic team. “We’re going to produce more biathletes. We’re going to have some of the best biathletes coming out of Casper in the future because of this phenomenal facility.”

One athlete that serves to benefit from the new venue will be Sean Halsted. The 44-year-old has already made two Paralympic biathlon teams at the Vancouver and Sochi Paralympic Games.

Halsted was shocked when he heard the news. He would expect something like this at previous Olympic or Paralympic venues such as Lake Placid, New York or Salt Lake City.

But Casper?

“It’s not a bad shocked. It’s an awesome shocked,” Halsted said.

The Northern Idaho native said he and others in the West now have an edge on world cup circuit. They will no longer need to search for an adequate course to test and practice their skills.

“Most of the time, when we end up having (biathlon) camps we piecemeal (a course) together. (We try) to find a course that looks equivalent, or find a place where we can work out and give us what we want. And it never adds up. It’s always just whatever we can make do with,” Halsted said.

“This (Casper) course is fitting all those parameters. You don’t need to look. You don’t need to search. You don’t need to piecemeal something together. It’s right there.”

Rosser said the course will also benefit the community.

“It’s going to be an economic benefit because it’s so unique. It’s going to attract people from the U.S., not just our region, not just our state, the entire country,” Rosser said. “I’m already talking to people up in Canada that want to come down and start an exchange program with us.”

Different phases of construction will take place throughout the next three months. Paved roller ski trails will also be installed by Dec. 31.

“(Biathlon) is the perfect sport for Wyoming because we are a shooting state,” Rosser said. “We’re the Cowboy State. Cowboys are known for shooting.”

Follow reporter Brendan Meyer on Twitter @Brendan_Meyer13.

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