Biathlon is a winter Olympic sport combining cross-country skiing with precision rifle marksmanship. A seemingly unlikely combination of events – one being an aerobic activity which requires strength, speed and stamina; the other being a passive activity which requires concentration and a steady hand - confronts the athlete with a very demanding challenge. The combination of power and endurance of cross-country skiing with the precision and calm of marksmanship makes this sport especially challenging, fun and rewarding. The aims of the Cadet Biathlon Program are to promote physical fitness, to act as a catalyst for a cadet fitness/sports program, to promote the safe handling of rifles and to stimulate and maintain an interest in Cadets.Competitors race in a groomed, looped trail of between 1.5 and 2.5 km, depending on the event. Near the start-finish line, a controlled rifle range is set for the marksmanship phase of the race. The competitors are required to ski a loop, enter the range, shoot five rounds and then return to the trail to ski the next loop. Each competitor is timed. The objectives are to ski the prescribed number of loops in the shortest possible time and to hit all targets on the rifle range. In the cadet biathlon, individual competitors ski loops of 2 km interspersed with three 5-round bouts of marksmanship.
In the team relay events, each team consists of three members. Each team member must ski three loops totalling 6 km, interspersed with two 5-round bouts of marksmanship. If no targets are hit, an additional 3 rounds must be shot. All cadet rifle marksmanship is performed in the prone position. Five black metal targets are are mounted horizontally across a metal box 50 m away from the firing point. A hit is immediately registered by a white plate which flips up to cover the black target. If all five targets are hit, all the white plates will show and the competitor is said to have "shot clean" thereby not having to ski any penalty loops or have any penalty minutes added to his or her skiing duration. After the cadet's score is recorded, the targets are remotely reset by a range official with the pull of a cord.
The cadet biathlon rifle is a single loading .22-calibre target rifle with non-optical sights. The rifles are as lightweight as possible but may weigh no less than 3.4 kg. Modifications of the rifles for biathlon use include snow covers on the sights and bolt modifications to speed up the loading/clearing process. The cadets do not carry the rifles with them during skiing phases as is the case in international competitions. The cadet's coach places the unloaded rifle at the firing point just as the cadet arrives for the marksmanship phase of the race, together with just enough ammunition for that bout. Upon completing the marksmanship bout, the cadet must lay the rifle down with the breech open to show that the weapon is "clear". Failure to follow this safety precaution results in a 2-minute penalty on the first occurrence and disqualification on the second.