Breathe deeply. Visualize. Let it fly. Who could have guessed striking the center of concentric circles with an arrow would be so intoxicating? Some of the appeal may be due to the fleeting nature of success because archery is rather difficult for the uninitiated, like me. Naturally, many people use the venerable bow and arrow for practical purposes like hunting, but I’m a millennial in an age of great convenience, so my ambition as an archer is in pursuit of the wholly impractical. Technology’s inexorable march may have chipped away at archery’s relevance as a trade of conflict, but it’s thriving as a widely-accessible recreational sport in Utah where the world-class Easton Salt Lake Archery Center (ESLAC) helps everyone from first-timers to Olympians hone their craft. Grab a bow and get ready to hit your mark.
Where the World’s
A lot of us probably had our first archery experiences firing away at summer camp or while shooting broken sticks with primitive homemade bows. On the sport’s other extreme is a deeply competitive and talented group of athletes with a World Cup and Olympic pedigree, and they convene at the ESLAC to battle it out. The facility hosted the Archery World Cup in June 2018, where the U.S. Team won gold medals in the men’s compound-bow team competition and the mixed team recurve-bow competition, in addition to an individual gold medal, U.S. athlete Kris Schaff won in the men’s individual compound-bow competition. ESLAC was also slated to host the 2019 Archery World Championships before Utah’s finicky spring weather compelled organizers to move the event to Medellin, Colombia, and the venue is bidding for another world-level competition in 2020.
When they’re not racking up medals while besting world-class archers, elite archers sharpen the finer points of their skills at ESLAC. It’s not hard to see why. ESLAC is an expansive facility with an all-season indoor range featuring 12 shooting lanes to 70 meters, 20 lanes to 50 meters and 10 lanes to nine meters in addition to an outdoor range featuring 64 targets with a shooting distance up to 90 meters all against the stunning backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains. ESLAC is up to the exacting standards and pinpoint accuracy of the world’s greatest archers, so it’s probably sufficient for wannabe Katniss Everdeen enthusiasts like the rest of us.
Learn to Shoot
Archery’s not quite point and shoot. You need to get your stance right, find a consistent anchor point and dial your breathing pattern. There’s a steep learning curve, which is why ESLAC offers an array of programs to get you up to speed. “We
offer programs to bridge the gap between the beginner and the elite experience. This is the place for archers who’ve never picked up a bow all the way up to those training for the World Cup and Olympics,” says ESLAC Director Eric Blalock.
Complete newcomers to the sport can get started with the one-hour “Try Archery” class, which costs just $25 including equipment. Once archers are hooked, they can move on to the six-week Basic 1: Fundamentals course to build a solid skillset—the program’s minimum age is eight. The course costs $90, includes equipment and is designed to have archers scoring by the program’s end. From there, archers take on advanced techniques and equipment in the six-week Basic 2 course for $90, which includes equipment and one hour of free range time per week.
After mastering the basics, archers learn high-level concepts and training used by U.S. Olympic Athletes in the Intermediate 1 course to prepare for tournaments and leagues, which ESLAC also hosts. Seriously committed archers over 18 years old can even complete in USA Archery Instructor Certification Courses at the facility for $200.
The Lighter Side of Archery
ESLAC has all the ingredients to take archers to the top of the podium, but they also have some unique archery programs for the less serious among us. These programs are ideal for parties or families and are great fun even for the completely uninitiated. Archery Tag features paintball-style action where teams run, hide, duck and shoot each other all without subjecting participants to the puncture wounds common to historical battlefields. A 90-minute session costs only $25 per person with a minimum of eight archers. Skeet Archery challenges archers to shoot foam targets out of the air, while Cosmic Archery lets participants get trippy with black lights, Day-Glo and music.
575 John Glenn Rd, Salt Lake City, 801-523-5232, eastonsaltlakearcherycenter.org
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