Between the 17th and the 25th February 2017, 45 cadets and 12 Adults from Northumbria ACF travelled to Crans Montana in the Swiss Alps to undertake a week of Alpine Skiing.
The Exercise was designed to give the group which consisted of mainly Novice skiers the opportunity to learn to ski or for those with previous ski experience to continue to develop their ski ability under the supervision of Six qualified Military Instructors taken from Regular, Army Reserve and Royal Marines.
The coach left County Headquarters, Cramlington, Northumberland at 1200hrs on Friday 17th February , travelled to Dover and crossed via ferry to Calais and then travelled the 1268 Kilometers to the resort of Crans Montana in Switzerland taking in some breathtaking scenery en route including the shores of Lake Geneva and Montreaux.
We arrived at the accommodation at The International Summer Camp Montana where we were met by the British staff. The Cadets were accommodated and then completed the issue of equipment and ‘ski fit’ of skis and boots before being split into their respective groups where they then met and were comprehensively briefed by their Military Ski Instructors.
The ski area of Crans Montana is a predominantly South Facing bowl with the resort situated between 1500 and 3000 Metres with its highest Piste being at 2986 Metres from where you had uninterrupted panoramic views of the Alps region with peaks such as the Weisshorn, Matterhorn and Mont Blanc dominating the landscape.
The cadets were up bright and early on the first morning and after breakfast made their way to the cable car for the short journey to the slopes which were wide and varied in difficulty and terrain ranging from safe contained nursery slopes to more challenging piste.
Those with previous ski experience quickly got their ‘ski legs’ and technique back and moved off to explore the
mountain whilst those novice skiers spent time on the nursery slopes learning to ski and for many they were confronted by the well publicized ‘ski sniper’ who would strike without warning causing the individual to fall to the floor in a crumpled heap in fits of laughter and giggles and then clamber to their feet (some with and some without grace) and then try not to be ‘hit’ again.
This was the routine for the next five days of up to 6hrs daily ski tuition on ever more challenging slopes, terrain and conditions. It was so very rewarding to observe the permanent smiles on the Cadets’ faces as they moved around the mountain with ever increasing confidence and skill.
In the accommodation, after the daily debriefing, group prize giving and four course evening meal the Cadets would then partake in the organized itinerary of evening activities consisting of orientation walking, tubing, use of the sports centre, film night and disco along with exploring the local town and shops.
On the Wednesday the Cadets and Adults were given the day off to visit the local spa and swimming facility to rest weary muscles or venture into the town of Crans Montana to shop for gifts/souvenirs.
On the last day the cadets eligible to be assessed for their military SF1 qualification were debriefed on their progress throughout the week and advised as to whether they had achieved the required standard.
After Dinner the Cadets packed, cleaned and handed back the accommodation prior to travelling back to the North of England via the same route.
The exercise achieved its aims and ensured that all the Cadets and Adults had a fantastic time learning new skills, achieving qualifications and experiencing the sights and culture of Switzerland.
We have already booked for February half term next year and planning has begun in earnest for ‘Exercise Northumbrian Swiss 2018’.
My heartfelt thanks and gratitude must go to the Ulysses trust for their support in this exercise whom without the entire venture would not have been possible.
Major Gordon Watson(PARA)