Between the 27th March and 5th April 33 cadets and 13 Adults from Northumbria ACF travelled to Serre Chevalier in the French Alps for weeks Alpine Skiing.
This was the first venture of this size to be undertaken by Northumbria ACF. The Exercise was designed to give the cadets the opportunity to learn to ski or improve on their current level of skill under the supervision of local ESF/UCPA staff and qualified Military Instructors.
For the vast majority of the cadets this was their first experience of Alpine skiing and for some the first time they had been abroad.
The coach left County Headquarters, Cramlington, Northumberland at 1900hrs on Friday 27th March and after an eventful and at times emotional journey the party arrived at the UCPA hostel in Villeneuve some 26hrs later at 2100hrs on the Saturday where the cadets after a late supper quickly settled into their surroundings.
The ski area of Serre Chevalier is one of the largest in the French Alps with over 250km of piste with the terrain ranging in height from 1400m at the valley floor where the accommodation was situated to 2700m at the top of the mountain range.
The following morning they awoke and for the first time in daylight were able to take in their surroundings where they were met with sub zero temperatures, glorious sunshine and uninterrupted blue skies. The snow conditions due to the height of the resort were very good as there are a number of wonderful nursery slopes situated high up on the mountain.
The cadets were up bright and early and after a hearty breakfast and comprehensive briefing happily queued in turn to be issued their safety and ski equipment. After lunch in the dining room which they shared with several other groups of young people from a number of European Countries they were placed into their respective ability groups introduced to their instructors and ventured onto the local nursery slopes where some took to the sport like a seasoned professional, whilst others looked rather reminiscent of ‘Bambi on Ice’ and spent a significant amount of time improving their core muscles by repeating the act of ski, fall over, get up again!
Such was the routine for the next six days of 5hrs ski tuition daily on ever more challenging slopes and conditions, where it was so rewarding to observe the permanent smiles on the Cadets faces as they moved round the mountain with ever increasing confidence and skill.
In the accommodation after the daily debrief the cadets were able to partake in the use of the outdoor heated swimming pool, which for many was a strange phenomenon to be swimming in a pool surrounded by snow and then after dinner took part in the organized activities such as games nights, quiz nights and obligatory disco night!
The cadets had a break from skiing on the Wednesday morning where they undertook a cultural visit and shopping trip to the historic town of Briancon (20Km away along the valley) with its breathtaking array of hill forts and castles perched high in the mountains.
On the last day the cadets in the novice groups received their respective grades and badges from the ESF/UCPA instructors, whilst the more experienced groups found out if they had attained their Ski Foundation (SF1) military qualification which had been registered for prior to their attendance. All were relieved to find out they had passed.
The route back to the UK saw the them entering Italy for part of the journey and included the experience of travelling through the Mont Blanc Tunnel during the trip through France. The ferry crossings both ways went well and the cadets arrived back home at 8am on Sunday 5th April after another long (23hr) coach journey.
The exercise proved to be a great success and all of the cadets and adults had a fantastic time learning new skills, achieving qualifications and experiencing the language and culture of France. Planning has already begun for Northern Alpine Adventure 2016 building on the experience of this year’s venture all of which would not have been possible without the support of the Ulysses Trust.