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Nordic Skiing – Ex NORDIC SWORD

The Nordic Skiing season started in mid-November 2019 for the 1 R Welsh team. A team of 8 deployed to Idre-Fjall in Sweden for the pre-competition training package organised by Infantry Nordic. The Battalion had just completed Ex DRAGON STRIKE, a Bn level training exercise on Salisbury Plain a few days before driving out to Sweden so this was a great reward for the Welsh Warriors who deployed on the exercise.

This was the second season that the Infantry held its training camp in Idre-Fjall, Sweden. It’s a leading venue with perfect snow conditions and a state-of-the-art range complex. The camp was three weeks long with some of the best instructors around, several of them were ex winter Olympians.

The winter camp took the team from learning the very basics of Nordic skiing to being able to compete in races by the end of the package. Training was intense with only one day off a week and skiing for up to 5 hours cross country a day; this coupled with shooting practice made for an extremely arduous but rewarding time. We were lucky to have visits from the Army Sgt Maj, WO1 Gavin Patton and also 3 (UK) Div Sgt Maj, one of our own, WO1 Keith Mills – both were put through their paces during the visit, with 3 Div Sgt Maj taking the accolade of best Comd Sgt Maj on a pair of Nordic skiis!

Following Sweden after the Christmas break, we made our way to Bessans, France where the team competed in the Infantry Championships. From a very steep learning curve in Sweden to now competing and racing for the remainder of the season. The championships comprised of 4 races which included a 15km Classic Race, a 4 x 5km Classic Relay, 10Km Individual Biathlon and concluded with a 4 x 7.5km Biathlon relay. The team achieved some great individual and team results and overall saw us place third behind the professional outfits of 4 SCOTS and 1 RIFLES.

The team then travelled to the Army Divisional Championships in Les Contamines, France. After qualifying for the Army Championships last year, we knew what to expect and fully committed to gaining our spot at the Army Championships once again. We had strong competition from 3 RIFLES who finished 4th in the Infantry Championships, but we were now working together to get as many Infantry teams to the Army Championships as possible. The team of Royal Welshmen had a strong performance throughout, most notably our highest finish in the competition was the military patrol race, this included command tasks and shooting, our bread and butter coming in 4th. The team raced 20km across arduous terrain on ski’s, dressed in white patrol suits and berets carrying 10kg plus SA80’s. The team qualified as of right to the Army Championships, finishing 8th overall in the Divisional Championships out of 35 teams.

After a 10-hour drive through Italy and into Germany we arrived at what can only be described as Nordic Skiing paradise, Ruhpolding. There are very few places that rival Ruhpolding in terms of infrastructure, atmosphere and skiing conditions and it was here the best teams in the Army, RAF and Navy would compete over a 3-week period. The team arrived during the International Biathlon World Cup which was held at the Chiemgau-Arena with tens of thousands of spectators flocking to the area to watch the best of the best compete. The first few races of the Championships were held in Austria at the Hochfilzen stadium due to the International Biathlon World Cup being held in Ruhpolding. Hochfilzen is another World class venue but almost an hour and a half of commuting each way which added to the race day pressures!

Competing in the Army Championships was a great reward for those returning athletes who were part of the team from last season, and equally, it was a great opportunity and experience for the new athletes on the team, who through hard work and determination made the team and got to experience what the Army Championships had to offer. The team really enjoyed the experience that competing in such a prestigious event brought with it, and whilst surrounded by the best British Nordic Skiers we certainly didn’t let ourselves down, with our Royal Welsh Warrior spirit we were punching well above our weight, finishing two places higher overall than last season in 15th place.

If any members of 1 R WELSH are interested in taking part in Nordic Skiing, please get in touch with Lt Ed Whitehead or Cpl John Morris in B (Rorke’s Drift) Coy.

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