RAF Alpine Ski & Snowboard Championships 2014

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The RAF Alpine Ski and Snowboard Championships were held during the period 11th to 25th January 2014 in the twin Austrian resorts of Saalbach-Hinterglemm. The ski area covers over 200km of piste with runs for all levels of experience. An annual event, the Championships are open to absolute beginners and experienced skiers/snowboarders alike, with the aim of offering formal instruction to beginners and encouraging personnel to make the transition from recreational skiing and snowboarding to competitive racing.

20 Marham skiers and boarders attended the championships over the two weeks, taking advantage of the subsidised accommodation and ski packages available. Weather conditions throughout the Alps had been unseasonably warm leading up to the event, with lower than average snowfall. Competitors on the 1st week quickly found that snow conditions deteriorated rapidly after midday and if you wanted the best of the snow it was imperative that you were on the first lifts of the day. That said plenty of skiing/boarding was achieved and a midweek fall of snow came just in time to provide excellent conditions for the competitive races.

Week two also began inauspiciously, with adverse weather in the UK preventing aircraft departing and thick fog at Salzburg thwarting all attempts at landing in Austria. Spirits took another blow when, during the highly enjoyable 90min coach ride to the resort, a cursory glance out of the window revealed luscious green valleys as far as the eye could see. The week was shaping up to be less ‘Heroes of Telemark’ and more ‘The Sound of
Music.’ However, once all personnel arrived safe and sound in the resort and had collected their equipment, they dutifully performed the first night snow dance, and prepared to meet the challenges of the slopes.

The second week saw some good skiing conditions allowing all races and events to take place with some very important milestones. SACs Wendy Cray and Michelle Boardman of TIW won first and second in their  improvers Grand Slalom race respectively, seeing off at least ten other competitors, in their first ever Alpine Championships. Sgt Iona Kelly from QCIT took gold in the women’s Fiacall even after a fall during the race, displaying the great tenacity of character the Champs are designed to encourage. SAC Dan Moss took gold for sorest loser after crashing out with two gates to go, proceeding to take it out on the ground with several well placed punches! He was at least consoled by his best friend Rob Mcneely later that night in the tradition techie fashion, with a one on one pillow fight in their room. Our trusty Stn Cdr produced a valiant effort at the Fiacaill snowboard, but contrary to the brief the conditions weren’t right and the gates were put in the wrong place, resulting in a DNF.

In between all of the racing there was some welcome downtime; Austria is famed for its lively après scene and Hinterglemm doesn’t buck this trend. RAF personnel descended en masse to the Glemmtellerhof hotel next to the race office for a couple of hot chocolates, where the Stn Cdr regaled with his heroic tales of past exploits, and on more than one occasion Marham personnel could be found practising their techniques by throwing some  interesting shapes in the London bar. The youngest honorary member of RAF Marham’s ski team, Kai (aged 8) quickly became a favourite with the members of the RAFSWAA Ctte by repeatedly beating them at ‘nails’  (hitting a nail into a piece of wood). Kai’s outstanding performance saw him presented with a RAFSWAA Gold medal for winning the most games, with the Chief of Defence Staff congratulating him on his achievement.

The week culminated with the prize giving ceremony and team presentation. The RAF hosted and competed against the  RAAF, winning the overall competition and earning a reciprocal visit to Australia next year, and  there are high hopes for the RAF Ski/Snowboard team in this year’s upcoming competitions.

The 2014 RAF Winter Sports Alpine Championships were an overall success for RAF Marham; five medals earned and nothing bruised but egos. The camaraderie and team-spirit that the Championships are encouraged to
foster was alive and well, and the Winter Sports Club looks forward to maximum attendance for next year’s event.

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