Gilford, NH – February 23, 2020 – Gunstock Nordic Association – Under balmy temperatures, warming snow, and flawless track conditions—thanks to Gunstock Mountain Resort’s grooming—72 skiers of all ages gathered for one of GNA’s most loved events of the year, the Valentine’s Paintball Biathlon.

A BKL skier takes aim during his first shoot.A BKL skier takes aim during his first shoot.

Biathletes ranged from NENSA Bill Koch League junior skiers (our youngest skier was just 3 years old!) to seasoned master skiers (oldest at age 64). Instead of the 22mm target rifles used in official biathlon, skiers use Tippmann paintball guns on a modified shooting range. Competitors from the ages of 14 and older skied an individual-start, time-trial race starting at 15-second intervals and raced 3 laps on a challenging 2.1 km course. Younger skiers in the Bill Koch age categories skied shorter courses in a mass-start race. Every skier got two shoots (trips to the shooting range) on 5 targets for a chance to improve their ski times, earning a 10-second time deduction for every target hit.

Mitch TownsendMitch Townsend, winner of the men’s race, heads out onto the race course.The first race of the day featured the U16-, U18-, senior-, and master-aged skiers. Gunstock’s excellent snow coverage allowed the biathlon to return to its original race course, which includes the fabled Crossbow trail. The trail climbs close to 100 feet with an average gradient of 11% and left many participants gasping for oxygen towards its peak. Following the climb, the trail descends downward into a sharp right hairpin corner that then takes skiers to speeds approaching 30 miles per hour. Afterwards there was lots of talk of maxed heart rates and white-knuckle descending!

The overall men’s and women’s titles were taken by GNA U18 junior skiers Katie Watt and Mitch Townsend. Katie skied and shot to a total time of 22:48 and Mitch blew the older skiers away with an impressive time of 19:28, over 2 minutes faster than the second-placed finisher.

Girls U18 Podium
Girls U18/Women’s Overall Podium – Katie Watt 1st, Catherine Stow 2nd, Vanessa Genakos 3rd

In the U16 races, Mathea Graham of Concord High School took top honors in the girls’ category and Tyler Watt of GNA won the boys’ title.

Wacky Costume Aiden Bondaz kept the GNA tradition of wearing wacky costumes and skied onto the podium of the boys’ U16 race. Impressive seeing that the costume added a lot of extra wind resistance.

In the 7–8 grade races, Reid Donovan (Holderness Bill Koch) won the girls’ race. On the Boy’s side, Nicholas Ring (Holderness Bill Koch) took top honors and showed incredible shooting skills by hitting an impressive 6 targets.

Ring approaching the finish Nicholas Ring (Holderness Bill Koch) sprints to the finish line.

In the 5–6 grade group, Josephine Lynch-Shaddock (EMBK) took the girl’s race while Jasper Lloyd (EMBK) won the boys race.

Grades 3–4 was won by Madeline Ronci (Holderness Bill Koch) and Bridger Ekstrom (Holderness Bill Koch).

grades 3-4 podium Grades 3–4 Girls Podium – Madeline Ronci 1st, Nell McAllister 2nd, Audrey Clendenning 3rd

grades 3-4 podium Bella Messenger takes aim during her second shoot

Lollipop skierGrades 1–2 was won by Estelle Kipp and Hartley Kipp.

The day’s youngest skier, Colin Petrov (at age 3!), skied two laps around the stadium, hit a target, and won a bag of Hello Salted Carmel Chocolates!

The target shooter of the day was 5th-grade skier Sebestien Christie who hit an amazing 8 targets out of his 10 shots.

Special thanks goes out to Holderness Bill Koch who brought a team of six and Agamenticus Ski Club who brought an incredible 11 skiers to the event! We would also like to thank our race sponsors, Gunstock Mountain ResortLindt & Sprüngli (USA) Inc., Tippmann Sports, and Rock House Barbecue.

A BKL skier takes aim during his first shoot. Lindt & Sprüngli (USA) Inc. provided an impressive spread of chocolate prizes for each category podium.

GNA would like to thank all race participants! Results and photos are now posted below.

Race Results (all categories) »
View More Race Photography by Sarah Townsend »

A note from a first-time participant who race the women’s race:
“I had registered a couple of nights earlier not quite knowing what it was all about, and woke up early on Sunday morning in Conway with a bit of hesitance and a decision to make. After all, the Presidentials were absolutely clear, barometric pressure was to remain high, and it was going to be a “no miss” summit kind of day. The mountains were calling but the curiosity factor got the best of me… And I'm so glad it did… The Paintball Biathlon was just SO MUCH FUN! The wonderful people I met, the inspiration of watching competition of all abilities and ages, the amazing crock-pot treats (kudos to the chefs), and Lindt chocolate prizes made it a perfect day!”


Gunstock’s excellent snow coverage allowed the biathlon to return to its original race course.

All race photography © Sarah Townsend


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