14th January 2024 saw the start of this year’s Royal Navy Snowsports Festival – the Royal Navy’s annual sporting event for alpine and telemark skiing, as well as snowboarding.

Representing HMS FORWARD in Birmingham, a small group from the Royal Navy Reserves Medical Branch signed up and Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander Vincent tells us how they got on.

Group photograph from HMS Forward.

“We were a mixed bunch, ranging from very experienced skiers right through to absolute beginners (myself included).

“We flew into Grenoble, and made our way to the Les Deux Alpes ski resort in the French Alps. After a day of getting kitted out in goggles, skis, boots, helmets, and as many layers as needed to stay toasty, we hit the slopes for our lessons. Being a Royal Navy event brought certain expectations – we were to attend 6 hours of lessons per day, complete an afternoon of avalanche safety briefing, and required to take part in a race at the end of the week.

Group of Skiers on the mountain.“In the beginners group we were treated to instruction by Stan – a robust ex-marine who never wore thermals the entire week despite some pretty frosty conditions at times. At the start we were tottering up and down a 20-metre stretch of gently-sloping snow. By the end we were sweeping (and, occasionally, tumbling…) down green and blue runs with enthusiasm.

“It was a fantastic week. Whilst we dabbled in some of the usual frivolities associated with skiing (raclette, fondue, vin chaud and apres-ski), alongside this were the expectations of any Royal Navy activity – right time, right place, right rig, persevering in less-than-pleasant conditions, and always being mindful of upholding the good reputation of the Royal Navy. In addition, one of our group won first place in her race category to boot.

Single skier coming down a slope.“In times when military recruitment is slowing, events like this are of enormous value. The morale, team-building and fitness aspects go to the heart of why many of us joined the reserves in the first place.

“The impact of budget constraints entails that more and more of these activities have to be self-funded. We were very lucky to receive a donation from West Midlands Reserve Forces and Cadets association, which we put towards the cost of our ski-lift passes. Generous support such as this makes us feel appreciated as Reservists, and makes it a much easier sell to potential recruits. We’d like to take this opportunity to say a heart-felt thank you.”


Find out more about Royal Naval Reserves.


Published 29/01/2024