Winter Sports Season 2016/17

It had been a long time since 7 Avn Sp Bn REME made any kind of mark on the Winter Sports front.   So for this season we were determined to identify what talent we have and enter a team in each of the disciplines at the REME Winter Sports Championships 2017, hoping to place in at least one event.

The ideal starting point to identify our talent was to deploy interested (and available) personnel on Ex SUPREME GLACIER 2016 (Ex SG16), the REME alpine and snowboarding race development camp held in Stubai, Austria, between 6 Nov – 9 Dec 16.  39 Personnel from the Bn deployed on this exercise, with groups of 10-12 people attending a week at a time.  This was a prime opportunity to introduce complete novices to the sports, develop and hone the skills of the moderately competent and introduce and improve the racing techniques of the more advanced skiers and Snowboarders.

The quality of the training delivered during this exercise was of a very high standard, ensuring that all participants improved their skills and techniques, as well as ‘ironing out’ any bad habits that they may have picked up over the years.  At the end of each week, all competitors raced down a full race course under timed conditions; giving an idea of each competitor’s ability and potential.  This proved to be invaluable for the OIC as it gave a solid metric to select the right people to represent the Bn in their relative disciplines.

During Ex SUPREME GLACIER participants were offered the opportunity to have a go at Telemark skiing.  With the rare opportunity to try something a bit different, Capt ‘Dickie’ Barton and WO2 (CSM) ‘Sandy’ Matthews jumped at the chance to look ‘cool’ on the piste for the day.  After realising that it is not as physically demanding as it would first appear and with a bit of expert tuition from Maj ‘Ross’ Carter, they were soon looking elegant on the slopes, even if only for a few well timed photographs.  Given the opportunity next season, I would recommend anybody to give it a try as it’s curiously satisfying.

After identifying a team of almost complete beginners for the Nordic Ski team, 7 Avn Sp Bn REME was ready to compete against the other Major Units at Ex SNOW SPANNER 2017 (Ex SS17), the REME Winter Sports Championships, held in Stubai, Austria between 18-25 Feb 17.  After a last minute struggle to get a set of FIS 2013 compliant alpine racing helmets and armed with a couple of new (privately owned) Snowboards, the team set off for Austria in their quest to gain some form of silverware.

With teams entered from all of the regular REME Battalions and several of the REME Reserve Battalions, the competition was looking fierce across all of the disciplines, causing a slight, but not overly daunting concern for our chances.  Not to be distracted by the quality of other teams, we pushed on through each event with a huge amount of light hearted, internal rivalry; making us stronger and faster through each event, actively encouraging each other for better race times.  By the end of the week, we appeared to be more interested in where we placed within our own teams than we did within the competition; making the whole experience more enjoyable and worthwhile.  By the end of the week, each of our team members was happy with their individual performances and looked forward to the awards ceremony on the Friday evening to see where we had placed as a team.

After a rapid introduction to Nordic Skiing and being thrown in at the deep end of every race, our Nordic team members thoroughly enjoyed their first experience of this demanding sport and did really well considering the level of competition that they faced.  Delightfully, they are all keen to develop their newly acquired skills and techniques in preparation for next year’s championships.

The Snowboard team comprised of experienced boarders, of which only one had raced before.  They had great results with LCpl Thorne winning the ‘Plate’ in Slalom and LCpl Cartwright winning the ‘Plate’ in Boarder Cross.  The Team placed: 2nd in Team Parallel Gate Slalom (PGS) and became the Overall Major Unit Runners up.  Despite never racing before, LCpl Cartwright’s natural talent was duly noted by the committee members and as a result, he has been selected for the REME Corps Snowboarding Team.

After a successful week of ‘clean’ race runs, the Alpine team were delighted with the overall Major Unit results:  2nd place in Team Grand Slalom, 1st in Team Slalom and 1st in Team Super G (extended GS).  These results therefore placed 7 Avn Sp Bn REME as the overall Alpine Combination Major Unit Winners for 2017.

As a Bn we would like to thank all of the organisers and enablers of Ex SG16 and Ex SS17 for delivering such great Corps events and to all of the other competitors for making this year’s championships so enjoyable.  The level of sportsmanship displayed throughout the event was truly commendable.  We now look forward to the start of next season and to defending our titles in 2018.

Capt SC Barton

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