28/01/17 – 04/02/17 – By Maj Rob Ronz (Army Ski Team Manager)
Looking across the Army it is clear that the overall standard of skiing is increasing. Established powerhouses of Alpine racing such as the RLC and REME continue to produce excellent skiers, however, they are being increasingly challenged by other Corps and Regiments who have evolved their own training schemes in order to compete. Most notable of these is the Royal Engineers, however, the Infantry, Royal Artillery, Royal Armoured Corps and Royal Signals are all now regularly producing skiers who compete strongly for Army jumpers. The 2017 Army team reflected this diversity with 7 different cap badges represented.
Captained by Maj Joe Williamson (QRH) and Capt Lizzie Cranfield (AAC) nine Men and six Ladies were selected to represent the Army team to compete at the Inter Services Snow Sports Championship. Alongside their more experienced colleagues 6 new Army colours were awarded this year to Lt Sophie Nicholls (RA), Sgt Dan Macdonald (REME), Cpl John Riddell (QRH), LCpl Nathan Cobb (RLC), Spr Euan Kick (RE) and Spr Duncan Kuwall (RE).
The Men’s team dominated from start to finish taking an early lead through an exceptionally strong downhill performance and building on it throughout the week. It was not all plain sailing, the team demonstrated their discipline in both the Slalom and Giant Slalom where they skied the second run under team orders having had skiers fall or get disqualified in the first run. Equally the Army’s two strongest racers (Spr Kick and Spr Kuwall) both got themselves into difficulties on races (Slalom and Giant Slalom respectively) blowing their chances in the individual competition. Maj Joe Williamson lead from the front and his winning mix of experience and ice cool temperament under pressure helped the men’s team to win every prize less two (Individual Combination Champion and Best Newcomer). This outstanding achievement is worthy of note and the foundations for success in future years are firmly in place.
The Ladies suffered a huge blow when their Captain Lizzie Cranfield fell on the downhill, she was medically evacuated off the hill and back to the UK. With their strongest skier out of the competition the Ladies not only effectively skied under team orders for most of the week but were in a real fight against a full strength and very competitive RAF ladies team. To their huge credit they performed magnificently, Lt Scarlett Geering stepped up to lead the team and they doggedly kept themselves in the fight winning the Super G and Giant Slalom team events. Their efforts, however, fell just short with a tiny 70 seed points total separating the RAF ladies and the Army ladies who finished second. The Ladies can hold their heads up high, they raced hard and fast and were just pipped to the line by a stronger team.
So a successful season with two Army skiers also being selected to go on and represent the Inter Services team at the British National Championships. The foundations are in place and there is an exciting crop of skiing talent out there, bigger and better things are on the horizon in the future.