Army Snowboard Championships 2019
Col JC Connelly and WO2 FofS(IS) Cooke
In 2019 the Army returned to the Neustift Valley for the annual Championships held on Stubai Glacier. Corps and Unit teams as well as individuals competed for the coveted Army Crown. The weather was typically variable for the glacier, going from some phenomenal blue-sky days with sunburn a serious risk to howling winds and snowstorms resulting in several lost days at the end of the 2 week package.
The event started with the seeding Giant Slalom to sort the field into some sort of race order followed by the Parallel Giant Slalom – an incredibly competitive event racing head-to-head in a knock-out format against an opponent down (you guessed it) parallel courses. Tricky gate changes caught out a few but resulted in some great racing with wins at the top end split by single digit microseconds. Moving on to the Boardercross brought its own challenges as riders raced flat out down a narrow course consisting of rollers, banked turns, gates, drops and jumps. This is difficult at the best of times but even more so when on the same course with three other riders. Pushing is not permitted but as you can imagine there was a certain amount of “defending one’s line”, and “safe but aggressive” riding! I can happily report that no major injuries were sustained apart from a fair few bruises, scrapes and damaged egos.
The last and most eagerly anticipated event was the Slopestyle. The mountain team this year put on a seriously challenging set of obstacles on a par with the Inter-Services level of riding which caused a fair amount of real concern amongst the newer riders. To their absolute credit, every single one went full-blast over the kickers, the Red Line riders having to clear at 10 meters just to reach the landing slope. At the higher end, backside 180s and grabs were the order of the day with a few 360’s thrown in by the real specialists. At this point the weather started to close in and as the final riders went down the course after an exceptionally long day the snow, cloud and wind all came in with a vengeance.
Sadly that was it, the mountain remained closed for the final two days. Fortunately, enough had been achieved thanks to the riders’ grit and determination to complete the final event, and it was almost home time, just tea (or beverage of choice) and medals to conclude a fantastic Championships. A number of new riders made the cut for selection as part of the Army Squad, proving that there is a genuine depth of talent across all the Corps that will present a real challenge to the other Services at the next ISSSC!
Overall, 41 riders qualified for the Championships:
Individual Open Champion – SSgt Mark Blackbourn REME; Runner-up – Sgt David Grant REME
Overall Corps Champions – Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (retained the trophy)