New Year was a nail-biting moment for the organisers of the Army’s Alpine Ski Championships; most slopes were still green, it was well above freezing and almost 200 people were lined up to arrive in Serre Chevalier in only 2 ½ weeks! But then the snow arrived, and suddenly the mountains looked like a ski resort and everything was set for the 25th Alpine Championships to be held in this wonderful skiing region just north of the Italian border.
Blue skies and perfect snow greeted not only the racers and officials but also the ‘redcoats’ and the many sponsors and supporters of what is the pinnacle of the Army’s racing calendar. The parallels between redcoats and Butlins stopped there as the well-oiled machine slipped into gear and the Army played host and entertained the many visitors to the thrills and spills of army racing. Some soldiers having only had weeks on snow were left to pit their skill, courage and sheer guts in the headlong pursuit of team and individual glory in the various slalom and speed events that were packed into the nine days of competition. Not so courageous were the sponsors and military hosts that supported the event, electing instead to be expertly guided around the mountains and cheering the racers from strategic advantage points as a blur of lycra-clad racers whistled through the poles. 113 competitors including 12 ladies and the disabled ski team attacked the mountain from the highly technical slalom to the blisteringly fast, 135 km/hr downhill on the formidable ‘Luc Alphand’ piste. It was a tremendous spectacle of knee-trembling courage displayed by the competitors at the start which was only eclipsed by the shrieks of elation and palpable relief displayed at the finish!
The sponsors and hosts were there for a reason. Yes, the sun shone, the snow was wonderful and the skiing superb but it is this same group from industry, brought together by Team Army that enables such fantastic events to happen and indirectly the some 4,000 soldiers who start the quest to get to this final stage of excellence in the various snow and ice sport disciplines. Speaking to end-users of equipment, displaying very tangible industry support to the Forces, taking pride in their achievement and building solid relationships is what brings industry together to deliver such success.
The Army Winter Sports Association can take pride in delivering a first rate championships and delivering the Army teams that went on to come top of the pile in the Inter-Services event that followed in Meribel. However, it was also a huge success for Team Army and the loyal support and commitment shown by the sponsors who helped make it all happen. A fantastic event that brings out the best, and given the Army’s future backing and blessing we can look forward to the 26th return to Serre Chevalier in 2017.
With thanks to Photographer, Laura Jane Dale for the fabulous images.