Once again, the 3rd Battalion hosted a successful unit skiing expedition to the glorious French Alps, returning to Meribel-Motterat and Les Trois Vallées. Home to the largest ski area in the world and consisting of over 300 ski runs and plenty of off piste, it was an excellent location to return to for the delivery of a range of Joint Service Alpine ski courses at various levels.
A total of 39 personnel took part, including a student from London UOTC and three external ski instructors. Deploying on the 15th March, the main party left the familiar sights of Cardiff for the snow-covered slopes of Meribel. After a 25-hour long coach journey the tired main body arrived and, under the direction of a well organised advance party, were settled into the accommodation for an early night. As the sun rose over the tallest peaks, the organised chaos that was the first morning began. Groups were assigned to instructors, the CILOR and equipment divvied out, and those that required it queued for the hire shop. Advanced skiers marched back and forth with armfuls of skis, poles, and other bits with some semblance of grace whilst the beginners found the balancing of such equipment a skill to be mastered.
Like previous years, the Battalion was fortunate enough to offer multiple levels of the Joint Service Alpine Ski Scheme, as well as continuation training for those who wanted more experience before progressing. These courses allow for the personal development of an individual as they are pushed out of their comfort zone trying something that is both physically and mentally demanding and requires much determination and patience to learn and improve. Five instructors, who had a wealth of knowledge and experience between them, allowed for two Ski Foundation (SF) 1 groups, an SF 2 group, an SF 3 group and a continuation group. This consistent variation allows for the individual’s skiing ability to progress yearly and for the prospect of being self-sufficient for future ski expeditions, with the completion of SF 3 allowing students to undergo their Ski Leader 1 course.
Having completed all the required administration the groups were released, and whilst the beginners set off with some trepidation, many soon began to find their feet on skis. The more advanced skiers soon settled back into the rhythm of skiing and started honing their technique even more. But alas, such good sentiments couldn’t last forever. What seems to be becoming a Meribel tradition, but hopefully fails to repeat next year, is the CASEVAC of a student off the piste on day one. Sadly, Sgt Gibson fell awkwardly on the slope and ruptured her ACL. She was quickly taken down the mountain and treated, but such a severe injury prevented her from any further skiing, and she spent the remainder of the expedition resting. Despite her injury, her good spirit remained, and she was keen to hear from all about their skiing when they returned in the evenings.