SNOW EAGLE SKI EXPED – MARCH 2013

Snow Eagle is a series of week-long Alpine ski touring expeditions which annually take place between Jan and Apr in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Ski Touring has similarities to back-packing in that a circular day-tour can be navigated using a combination of skiing styles and equipment allowing for both up and downhill skiing by virtue of a specialised ski binding.  Candidates will be progressively taught skiing and ski touring techniques.  These will enable them to undertake a self-sufficient tour away from the madding crowds, allowing access to the stunning landscape and alpine vistas of the Allgau mountain area.

Seven personnel from RAF Coningsby Depth Support Squadron decided to take on the challenge and build on the skill set and core values the RAF rely upon.  Through the week we would be working together, combating stress, building personal fitness, learning new skills in a new and difficult environment and having a great time while doing this.

The day we arrived no one knew what to expect.  We had horror stories of how hard and intense the course is and how physically we would be broken.  Spirits were mixed and a sense of uncertainty loomed.  We had briefs on the week events and met the instructors, from this moment on the week took a turn for the best.  As soon as the serious safety aspects had been covered we spoke about the weeks plans and found the instructors polite and willing to do anything to set us at ease.

The next few days we would come across some major highs and some lows with frustration and a great sense of achievement.  On day two we headed off to ski and again no one was quite sure what to expect.  We started the day with basic drills without wearing skis, which went fine until the moment chaos broke loose when the group tried their skis on for the first time.  We started on one ski and soon afterwards we progressed onto using two skis.  From the moment we put skis on the grins got bigger and bigger, even with more falls than I had fingers and toes to count on.  The aim of the day was to be able to move in the skis using a snowplough technique, to do basic turns and to stop on relatively shallow gradients.  This meant we wiped out the instructor (who happened to be OC DSS, Sqn Ldr Hall).

By lunch time the majority had learnt how to snowplough and could do basic turns and stop with little falling over.  This was when the groups changed and we were now placed into in groups of equal abilities.  The instructors now decided to take us onto a green slope and see how we survived; my only comment on this was from the bottom it looked like a sniper was shooting people one by one on the hill.  By the time everyone had made it to the bottom we had all fallen, at least once, but had the biggest grins of the day on our faces.

For the next few days we were taken to different locations that better suited our abilities and progressed at a rapid pace with the instruction of our ski instructors.  By the third day the more advanced group had progressed onto parallel skiing while the other group perfected their snowplough techniques.  We started to do steeper and more technical slopes ranging from blue grading to small sections of red routes.  The main concern of the instructors was to perfect our slow control so we could ski in a safe manner before we progressed onto any speed.

By the fourth day skiing everyone was at an ability to ski, some more advanced than others, but we all had the time of our lives no matter what we did.  We tried different techniques and started to build up speed and go off the normal ski routes slightly.  The horror stories we had been told had long gone and we realised how much fun we were having and could not believe this had cost us a grand total of £0 yes that’s right it was Free.  It was nearing the end of the week and our skills had advanced enough to do any blue slope and throw in the odd red section to challenge us.  We passed Ski Foundation Level 1 that enabled us to ski in small groups with the instructor in the vicinity.

The final day we handed all our equipment back in and did a small presentation on the week’s events to reflect on the great time we had and to hear what the other groups had achieved.  We felt we met the RAF expectations from AT and more.  Our advice to anyone looking at AT – get your name down as soon as you can; you will not regret it.

 

SAC Jonny Price & SAC Andy Dunn


 

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