The aim of the exercise was to take 16 cadets and 6 Cadet Force Adult Volunteers who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to ski in the Alps, on an Alpine Skiing expedition to Flaine, France. All personnel attending the expedition took part in the Ski Foundation Level 1 Course taught by three qualified instructors, Regular Army Captain Dan Couldridge, Territorial Army Major Paul Whitehead and CCF Staff Instructor Ian Roach. Instruction was from 0900hrs to 1600hrs daily for six days with evening teaching periods. The course ended with a series of small competitions and the level 1 assessment.
FUND RAISING Each member of the exercise gave a personal contribution of £200; the remainder was raised through donations, fund raising events and public money.
PLANNING AND LOGISTICS Before an expedition of this nature can be undertaken by the ACF, approval has to be sought from the MOD via Land (Army Headquarters) and clearance for Adventurous Training overseas from SO2 (AT) HQ Support Command. The Joint Services Adventure Training Form A (JSATFA) and risk assessments were completed and despatched, laying out the travel arrangements and detailed itinerary for the trip broken down into travel, course instruction, accommodation and other activities.
BRIEFINGS AND MEETINGS In order to select the participants for the exercise a parents briefing evening took place at HQ NACF Dereham which outlined the aim and itinerary of the trip. After a short presentation from the planning team the remaining team members were selected. A co-ordination meeting then took place each month to plan future fund raising events and to keep the team updated on its progress.
SATURDAY 16 FEB – DEPARTURE DAY The team paraded at HQ Norfolk ACF Dereham at 0200hrs for a final kit check and baggage weighing, and departed for Gatwick in two NACF minibuses ready for our flight at 0805hrs. After a trouble free check in and slight delay we took off, landing at Geneva at 1045hrs (local). After a 2 hour coach transfer to the resort, we checked into the hotel and settled into our rooms. The adults then took the cadets food shopping, using the meal planners and menus each group had written prior to departure. We then all visited the ski hire shop to get kitted out with skis and boots ready for our first day on the slopes tomorrow.
DAY 1 SUNDAY 17 FEB The first day on the slopes started early at 0830hrs when we all paraded at the ski lockers to get kitted up before moving to the beginner slopes. Once all the lift passes were issued the instructors took their students onto the hill for a warm up and their assessment to determine which group they were in. Once grouped the instructors then took their students through the basics which included balance, posture, gliding, stopping and basic turns. The glorious sunshine aided the students to grasp the basics and all saw significant progress by lunch time. After lunch the groups were then re-jigged into their groups for the week with SI Roach taking the less able group, Maj Whitehead the intermediate group and Capt Couldridge the more advanced group. Later in the afternoon the instructors then introduced their groups to the ski lifts to take on some more demanding slopes. All instructors felt the students were taking to it well and had met their training objectives for the day which were basic sliding, ploughing, stability work, speed and body posture.
DAY 2 MONDAY 18 FEB The second day on the slopes began at 0900hrs in fantastic sunshine with all groups meeting at the Grand Van lift for a briefing on the days activities. Capt Couldridge and Maj Whitehead took their groups further up the mountain to work on turning, balance and confidence while SI Roach kept his group further down the mountain working on the basics. In the afternoon all groups went higher up the mountain taking on some more demanding piste’s as they became more comfortable on the snow. Some students required more one to one tuition but by the end of the day they were all generally at the same standard with their group.
DAY 3 TUESDAY 19 FEB Day three once again began in sunshine where we all met at the Grand Van for a warm up before the groups headed off up the mountain but this time the instructors swapped groups. The instructors took the first hour to reassess their new groups before advancing them on the skills they had learnt so far. Each group learned about body separation before tackling parallel plough turning. All groups tried red runs and the students were taken out of their comfort zones with some variable terrain skiing. In the evening the whole trip went out to unwind to the local bowling alley – the competition was won by SSI Roach with a highest score of 130, closely followed in second place by the RSM.
DAY 4 WEDNESDAY 20 FEB Another sunny day with all groups meeting at the Grand Van for the daily warm up. The instructors were then reacquainted with their original groups before taking them up the mountain to work on the lessons already taught. Today was all about perfecting technique and the students demonstrating they had grasped the basics before progressing onto carving. The instructors also showed examples of different snow pack, snow features and emergency shelters.
DAY 5 THURSDAY 21 FEB Day 5 saw a big difference in the weather: after a promising start the snow came in, especially in the lower areas which made visibility very poor and skiing conditions more difficult. This gave the instructors the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the importance of technique as turning, slowing down and stopping were more difficult. Along with the poor visibility came a dramatic drop in the temperature so all groups stopped early and went back to the warmth of the hotel for lunch. In the afternoon all groups continued to work on technique before going to the top of the mountain for a group photo. The entire course then skied down together showing off their skills. Early evening activities consisted of theory lessons, covering ski maintenance, the aims of adventure training and reading weather and snow conditions.
DAY 6 FRIDAY 22 FEB Day 6 started with both groups practicing for the final practical assessment, consolidating all skills previously taught: nerves were running high as a course pass was at stake. Just before lunch the assessment took place – students had to demonstrate the plough turn, the plough parallel turn, body posture, body separation and for a bit of variety the 360 degree turn, and a small jump. After the assessment the whole course skied together down the mountain, showing off their skills. We all then returned to our apartments for lunch before handing in our skis. In the evening all went out for an end of course meal at a local Pizza restaurant.
SATURDAY 23 FEB – JOURNEY HOME The day started early with reveille at 0500hrs as we were due to meet the coach at 0630 and needed to clean the rooms and hand in the keys before departing to the airport. After a slight delay we all boarded the coach for a trouble free journey to Geneva. On arrival the airport was manic but eventually we all got checked in and after a tour of the duty free shops we took off for Gatwick. We cleared customs and baggage reclaim with no problems and boarded the familiar NACF minibuses back to Norfolk. After some final admin back at Dereham we all went our separate ways with the memory of a fantastic course still fresh in our minds.
SUMMARY AND EXPEDITION CONCLUSIONS Ex DRAGON VENTURA SNOW CADET 2013 has proven to be a great success. All of the Cadet Force Adult Volunteers and Cadets have risen to the challenge of fund raising and achieved the Ski Foundation Level 1 qualification. The Cadets’ experience of living together and looking after each other in a foreign environment has proved that they have developed and changed for the better, learning a lot about themselves and each other along the way. It is important to remember that no cadets were excluded from the trip for family financial circumstances and all of the adults and cadets that attended the exercise were a credit to NACF and their parents/guardians. In organising Ex SNOW CADET it has also been proven that there are many individuals and organisations within Norfolk more than willing to help and support young people achieve their goals and to assist in their personal development. Our fund raising efforts were a key ingredient in making the expedition a success. We have managed to meet all our payment targets, paid all our bills and have left a small amount in the expedition bank account for the next trip.