By December, the bullets will be flying at Otway Nordic Centre.
The biathlon range berm is in place, two timing/storage buildings are under construction and the new trails have been built.
With 17 months to go before 2015 Canada Winter Games, Otway is entering the end phase of a $1.7 million facelift to improve what already ranks as one of the province's best cross-country/biathlon facilities.
The new 30-lane shooting range, built to International Biathlon Union standards and scheduled for completion later this fall, will give the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club the ability to host national and international events, such as the world youth biathlon championships. An electronic target modification would be all that is needed to bring the facility up to World Cup biathlon requirements.
"We wanted to use this momentum the Games are creating to do a complete job on upgrading our facility for international events, so we're going beyond what is required for the upgrades for the Games," said Jim Burbee, the Caledonia club's director of competition.
Most of the trails to be used for biathlon events were built in 2012, part of a 10-kilometre expansion to the Otway trail network on what was formerly private land within the Northern Lights trail loop. Those new trails have been refined this year to install culverts, smooth out some rocky areas, widen tight corners and reduce a few steep pitches that made them difficult to ski and maintain last winter.
Biathletes will be aiming their rifles in the direction of Otway Road, just north of the biathlon firing line, but the eight-metre high berm is 12 metres thick and consists of about 12,000 square metres of gravel. It has been built well beyond the minimum standards of the RCMP's Canadian Firearms Program. The club expects to receive International Ski Federation (FIS) sanctioning for its new ski trails.
"We are going to have one of the best biathlon facilities in Canada, from a racing perspective and from a spectator's perspective," said Tim Roots, director of trails, facilities and grooming for the Caledonia club. "It's going to be fairly tough and the race trails will be built to FIS standards. A lot of this work has been done so we can ski on those trails with a minimal amount of snow. We're not aiming at doing a World Cup event here, but at the same time we've tried to make sure we haven't done anything that would preclude us from ever holding a World Cup event."
Among the construction projects still to be completed this fall are: two 2.5-metre high wooden fences atop a small berm on either side of the range; a high chain-link fence behind the large berm to keep people from climbing on the back side of the shooting range; a raised platform of interlocking blocks for the firing line retaining wall where biathletes will shoot from; two timing buildings, one for biathlon and one for cross-country races; and completion of grading and packing of the 150-metre penalty loop trail and connecting trail from the cross-country stadium. There will nr separate start/finish areas for biathlon and cross-country races.
"It's much easier for the officials if everything takes place in one area so they can see everything that's going on at the same time," said Roots. "We'll have a range that is equivalent to Callaghan Valley and Canmore."
The new biathlon range and connecting trails are the most significant improvements to the facility since the Rotary Lodge opened in February 2005. The Caledonia club has been based at Otway, just west of the city since 1984. A six-month ski season in 2012-13 led to record membership in the club with close to 1,800 members.
The first test event for the new range will be the B.C. Winter Games trials on Dec. 29. The Caledonia club will also host the Western Canadian biathlon championships, Feb. 1-2.