Exercise Lynx Glacier was the 39th Signal Regiment’s annual alpine ski adventure training in La Tania, France. The expedition was attended by 22 members of the Regt with representation from all Sqns and catering support provided by ARRC. There were 2 external instructors sourced from the Royal Engineers and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, both of which were Army Reservists.
The aim was to deliver as many Ski Foundation 1, Ski Foundation 2 courses as possible, and to develop a potential instructor in readiness for the Ski Leader course.
The reader may be aware that the weather across the Alps have been notoriously bad this ski season, with very little snow fall and unseasonal high temperatures, both of which combined to make ski conditions more challenging than normal. Despite this, everyone worked extremely hard to obtain their Ski Foundation qualifications. Due to an heavy overnight snow fall early in the expedition, the avalanche risk was raised to high, being graded 4/5 and remained at this level all of the week. The avalanche risk curtailed most of the off-piste training opportunities and disappointing meant we were unable to reach the full assessment criteria for the Ski Foundation 2. However, we were rewarded with 7 Ski Foundation passes and 11 Ski Foundation 2 deferrals, which places the regiment is a strong position to develop our skiers in to next year.
LCpl Hopkinson 94 (BY) Sqn Ski Foundation 1 – “As a novice, I was placed in the Ski Foundation 1 (SF1) group which aimed to introduce complete beginners to the activity, familiarising ourselves with the foundations of skiing and gaining experience.
In the space of a few days, we had gone from a group who couldn’t put on their own skis, to taking on the green and even blue slopes of La Tania and Courchevel. We quickly learned the rules of the slopes albeit through many tumbles and a baptism of snow. We also christened our first steep slope as ‘Sniper Hill’ as we were all taken out almost instantly at the same point each time. While it was a challenge, it was one that we all approached with optimism and a sense of humour. The mountains made for a steep learning curve, but one we were able to progress as a team on. No matter how long it took or how many of the SF2 group skied by us, we all made it off the mountains safely and were happier for it. Whether that was due to relief, or an enjoyed experience it is too soon to tell!
Overall, the SF1 course has been the most enjoyable adventurous training activity I have done with the Army Reserves. While it was demanding, we were all in a safe environment to demonstrate teamwork and determination in the face of unfamiliar conditions. I hope to continue skiing in my own time so that I have enough experience ahead of the next annual ski trip and complete SF2.”
LCpl Jenifer Reynolds 93 (Sp) Sqn – Ski Foundation 2 – “There were a range of experience levels within the Ski Foundation 2 group, and some had not skied for several years. So we started the week getting our ski legs back and refreshing basic skills. We then moved onto improving technique with a series of drills, and skiing off piste, a completely new skill for me which was definitely outside my comfort zone. By mid-week we were taking on new challenges with enthusiasm, including one of our instructors who had the opportunity to try skiing without poles for most of a day when Sgt Ian Bailey managed to snap both of theirs.
The second half of the week started with us journeying across three valleys to Val Thorens, giving us the chance to practice navigation and work on techniques taught earlier in the week. We then learned about touring equipment and locating someone caught in an avalanche, before a final free ski day to practice our new skills. It was great to see how much everyone had progressed and to enjoy runs that I would have found terrifying just a few days before. A big part of this was thanks to our excellent instructors Maj Bob Case and Maj Gaz Topps.
It was unfortunate that we were unable to gain the SF2 qualification this time, but all of us gained a lot from the week and now feel well-prepared and eager to return and complete it next year.”
Sig Robert Davis 43 Sqn – Ski Foundation 3 – “SF3 lead by Maj Bob Wilkins had 3 willing volunteers with day one started out with kit issue and then onto the slopes. Straight into a full day getting our legs up and running and a day that got us to Val Thorens and back to La Tania (Courchevel) our home for the week. First day we covered just under 30 miles on piste ranging from a couple of blues runs and a lot of red runs! The slopes into Meribel being particularly icy first thing in the morning and ski edges tended to skip across the ice rather than dig in, all with a very disconcerting sound.
The second day the weather changed and snow fell most of the day. Navigation was tricky and vision was down to a few metres, but a good day was had skiing around Courchevel, with another 24 miles racked up, with some additional lessons on avalanche and rescue procedures included in the day.
Day three the good weather had returned and fresh powdered snow was under our skis, making it a great day to tour the mountain with limited off piste skiing, albeit into a very challenging and steep valley that certainly tested out individual aims of AT! The final two days of instruction got us clocking up 50 plus miles across black, red, blue and green runs.
The final day is always an individual choice of free ski time in teams of at least 3 and ski only areas that you have already covered and are confident on. For me personally this day was used to perfect my carving skills under the watchful eye of SL3 instructor, Maj Bob Wilkins.”
39 Signal Regiment is a Royal Signals Reserve Regiment based in the South of England and Wales. Over 300 reserve soldiers and officers serve within the Regiment at locations in Windsor, Bath, Bristol and Cardiff.