46 Officer Cadets from Oxford UOTC we lucky enough to take part in the annual ski trip from the 6th-15th of January 2023. It was definitely a week to remember learning about avalanches, developing skiing technique and skills and forming new friendships within the unit! With current snow reports in some resorts in the Alps, OCdt’s were sceptical on the bus journey over when we began ascending into the mountains and had seen no snow. However, Les Deux Alps is situated higher than many resorts, with the lowest lifts already at 1650m and the glacier being at 3200m. We even got lucky with around 10cm of fresh snowfall on two of the days. Though there were many picture perfect days, there were a couple mornings that the conditions were less than ideal and provided low visibility which provided an extra challenge to OCdt’s and instructors, but all took cation and still enjoyed skiing safely.
Below details some perspectives from OCdt’s, detailing what they enjoyed and learnt form the experience:
The day started for all the OCdt’s at the French passport control in Dover. Soon after this, the eager cadets filled the ferry services to pick up some last-minute snacks for the ferry journey ahead of them. Once aboard, the cadets tried various things to pass the time including playing games, attempting to venture outside despite the gale force winds and some made the most of the duty-free store. Once we disembarked the ferry, the final stretch of the journey begun. After many games of kahoot, some awful karaoke, and some short-lived naps the OCdt’s successfully made it to Les Deux Alps and were allocated their rooms and ski passes. Soon after everyone got settled, the hungry cadets headed to the canteen to indulge in an endless supply of food, which was pleasantly surprising and provided lots of variety. The evening activities involved a short meet and greet with the groups instructors for the week followed by a short trip to the pub before everyone was off to bed to get ready for their first day of skiing. (Emily Jefferies)
The day started with a bowl of cereal, some bacon, and eggs for breakfast. Then it was getting my salopettes and ski jacket on, putting on my ski boots and picking up my skis, for another day on the slopes. We caught the first lift up to the slopes and developed on some of the easier skiing we had done the day before. We got amazing conditions and the size of the resort meant we almost had the whole run to ourselves. In the afternoon we were focusing on shorter turns down steeper reds and practising the basics behind carving on blues. We also got to get some off-piste skiing in on the way back down to the hostel which was great fun, and allowed us to learn how to use different skiing techniques when skiing on snow that is variably compact. Skiing off-piste effects how you want your body weight to be distributed which is something we all got too practise. There was lots of snow to be practice powder skiing today and I came out of it feeling much more confident skiing off-piste. Finishing off the day with a drink at the Après and dinner in the evening. (Adam Pinnell)
We began with the regular routine of having the most random assortment of French food for breakfast ,to then head our way to the ski room to get ourselves equipped for the day ahead. Being a part of group 1 our aim was to build on skills we learnt previously on more challenging slopes .This was a huge improvement from the first day which involved many falls and a general lack of confidence. My whole group were beginners however, and by the end of the week we all felt much more confident in the new skills we had developed. As the day progressed we continued to consolidate different techniques slowly moving away from snowploughing down every route. A key standout for the day was tackling a red route which invoked a level of fear as I felt out of depth, however applying the variety of techniques we had been taught, they effectively eradicated this lack of confidence. It was something I am personally proud of after only skiing for a few days, and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. Once we had enough of this skiing business (when the conditions and visibility became so poor it was no longer enjoyable) we took the Jandri express back down to the village where we joined the other groups in Après. After enjoying a peach lager, we made our way back to dinner to enjoy the various dishes on offer. Then around 10 pm we went out to explore what the Les deux Alpes night life had to offer before retiring to bed. (Adam Noble)
SF2 Continuation spent today focused on off-piste performance. After using the lift system to gain height, we skied a variety of terrain types and snow conditions, starting with areas of wide, open off-piste, and finishing with our best attempts at short jump turns through the tree line. We practised traversing across fresh power and navigating any obstacles, like stumps and rocks that were not fully covered by snow. Everyone communicated effectively to ensure we could safely ski our own lines, giving a real sense of freedom and a taste of what’s available on future courses! The following day SF2 continuation headed up to the transceiver park in the morning, to put the avalanche rescue lectures into practice in a simulated environment. Each person had 10 minutes to locate and successfully probe two ‘buried’ casualties – such a tight, realistic timeframe really brought home the importance of practicing with your kit. WE also learnt a lot about the statistics of avalanche survival, the importance of touring with the correct gear and why you should never ski alone. In the afternoon after lunch, we sought out more challenging terrain, including unpisted blacks and moguls, to improve specific techniques. One experience to remember will be touring up at 0600 to try and catch the sunrise form the lowest lift, still climbing an elevation of 750m! unfortunately however, the weather conditions were less than ideal and we skied back down in a whiteout, but the challenge was still worth it. (Zac Coleman)
After an extraordinary and productive week of adventure training, the team were awoken at 06:30 to complete admin and load baggage onto the transport for the return journey. Once packed, the OCdt’s set off from Les Deux Alpes at 0800 ready to embark on the long journey back to FH. Coming away with many memories and skills developed, including the first time on the slopes for some and a new experience of ski touring for others, everyone was in high spirits. The OCdts passed the time by watching the Shane McConkey skiing documentary and by playing a serious game of sardines onboard a rather rocky ferry, with some questionable pizza. We then heard some croaky singing voices to welcome in Captain Burn’s birthday and arrived safely back at FH for SF2 groups to return their touring boots and skis. We all then sadly departed each other’s company following an unforgettable week. (Ella Foreman)