The St. Lawrence Valley Primitive Snowshoe Biathlon

By: Dallas Robinson

Volume 19, Issue 2, February 2024

When reading about the trials and tribulations of the early settlers of the St. Lawrence River Valley, snug in our warm homes with full pantry only a few steps away, it’s difficult to envision what it must have taken to survive the winters in the North Country. Donning wool clothes, sliding in winter moccasins, strapping on snowshoes, and combing the woods for small and large game with a flintlock, was a necessary everyday activity.

Reenactor Matt Sheehan, depicting the Forsyth's Rifles , who fought in the French and Indian War 1756 to 1763, and the War of 1812

Reading the history of our region in the early 18th century, we find records of the exploits of the French troops, militia, and First Nations warriors from Fort de La Présentation in Ogdensburg, who snowshoed down the Black River Valley and back to attack the English forces in the Mohawk Valley. Robert Rogers and his famous Rangers scouted the woods around Lake George and Lake Champlain, spending weeks on snowshoes, spying on Forts Carilion and Ste. Frederic for intelligence on France’s military forces. While it may not be possible to actually recreate these events, it is possible to get a feel for what it was like being there.

Each year, on the first weekend in March, the Fort La Presentation Association hosts a Primitive Snowshoe Biathlon at the St. Lawrence Sportsman Club in Lisbon, NY. The event is timed as participants snowshoe along a 1½ mile trail through the woods. The contestants stop at 5 shooting stations in the woods, firing 2 shots at each station, and throw a tomahawk at the end of the course. Every time a participant hits the target, 5 minutes is deducted from the running time, emphasizing shooting skills, and fleetness of foot.

Targets in the Wood. Targets in the woods. (Designed and fabricated with cooperation of BOCES, Ogdensburg New York)

Participants may use traditional flintlock, percussion, or modern in-line firearms, and each class is scored separately from the others. The divisions of shooters include elders, men, women, and youth. Young people between the ages of 13 and 18 years of age may participate in the event if accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.

The Fort La Presentation event is one of several similar events held in VT, NH, and eastern NY. The St. Lawrence Valley Primitive Snowshoe Biathlon typically attracts participants from across NY, PA, VT, MI, and the Canadian provinces of ON and QC. We are proud to announce that 2024 will be our 10th Anniversary Event.

The author, Dallas Robinson reenactor. 

For more information, please email

By Dallas Robinson

Dallas Robinson who lives in Norfolk, NY, is retired from Alcoa since 2015. He is currently a substitute teacher at the Norwood Norfolk Central School in Norwood, New York. He is an active Reenactor; first portrayed a confederate soldier in the 1st North Carolina Infantry. He is now a union soldier in the 118th New York Infantry out of Tupper Lake New York. Additionally, he belongs to Forsyth’s Rifles out of Ogdensburg, New York. With this unit he portrays soldiers from the French and Indian war (Seven Years War), and the War of 1812. Recently he joined Congress’s Own (The Second Canadian) reenacting the American Revolution. He serves on the Fort La Presentation Association Board, holding the position of Marketing Committee Chairman. He is a descendant of Jacob Countryman, United Empire Loyalist.

Posted in: Volume 19, Issue 2, February 2024, News Item, Nature, Places

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