JFSKI 2015 Eagle Eye online

JFSKI 2015… bending knees, not rules!!!

On Thursday, 18th February, the first of two groups participating in JFSKI 2015 departed for Sankt Johann in Austria. The main purpose of the ski expedition was for the less experienced participants to complete either level one or two of the Ski Foundation Course, while for the more experienced skiers, it was a case of… well, to go as fast as they could down hill without crashing into anything!

Two weeks later, and having safely returned back to Wyton, albeit perhaps not quite in the same shape she had departed, Station Medical Centre Practice Manager, FS Kerry Finlay was happy to report back to Eagleye on what, apparently, was a brilliant fortnight, packed with great instruction, plenty of fun, and the odd incident or three! Kerry now picks up the story:

JFSKI 2015 – Week One
Departing Wyton, nine personnel from across the Station set off for Karlsruhe in Germany, our rendezvous for the night. Unfortunately, having successfully navigated our way to the Channel Tunnel and beyond, our good progress received a set back when one of the groups inadvertently took a detour, which saw them circle Brussels city centre for longer than they cared for. Fortunately for them, the other group faired little better, the group  getting lost in Karlsruhe, trying to find their way back to the hostel after eating out. After a reasonable night’s sleep, our destination of Sankt Johann was reached the next day without any more map-reading mishaps.

Having reached the ski resort of Alpendorf in Sankt Johann, we went to a restaurant close to where we were staying, where an ‘all you can eat’ rib challenge was undertaken, obviously to ensure we all had enough protein on board for the following day. However, we think Glynne perhaps took on a little too much protein, as he was looking very green after 40 or so ribs!

With Sgt Jimmy Gregory kindly agreeing to be our instructor for the week, he must have thought he was in for a long week when he turned up on day one to find a bunch of novices struggling to get their skis on and stand upright. Moving, and the trickier skill of stopping was a whole other lesson! With Ski Foundation Level One including six PowerPoint lessons, we patiently covered the principles of AT, weather and Risk Assessments, while trying not to be overly distracted by the smell of dinner being cooked by the others.

Day two had us leaning how to herringbone (very tiring), followed by snow plough turns, and then parallel turns. After a cold lunch under a tree, to give us an idea of how much shelter they can provide, we managed to persuade Jimmy that restaurants would provide us with a much better shelter, and would be much more to our liking! While Makka and Sean cooked us a beautiful dinner that night, we finished the day’s instruction off with a lesson on mountain hazards and cold weather injuries, which, unbeknown to me at the time, I would later experience first hand!

During the week some off-piste skiing created some spectacular falls, many of us being well and truly separated from our skis, and Mike having to be dragged back on-piste by a chain of people, possibly laughing too hard to be of any immediate help; serves him right though, he wasn’t actually supposed to be off-piste. Despite this and other impressive, if not planned, falls, our skiing did get better. Instructor led exercises to improve our skiing included; making ‘weeing and wooing’ noises, to being tanks with our ski poles, although I think this might have been more for Jimmy’s benefit than ours! Those of us undertaking the Ski Foundation course continued it with lessons on the use of transceivers, before getting the opportunity to build a snow shelter and a hasty pit. Our final lesson included the effect that avalanches can have.

The ‘Après Ski’ also went down well with everyone, all of us taking it in turns to cook dinner, which set the tone for some memorable evenings together. A game we played, involving some items of kitchen cutlery, shown to Julie by a 13 year old, soon became extremely competitive, and loud, while a popular card game we played, soon exposed the lack of knowledge some of us had, not to mention ‘morals’ – a good laugh all the same. What was a great week was finished off with awards for the most improved, most challenged, best fall, best dinner and best comment. With Stu dropping off the first contingent of skiers at the local airport, the flat was given a quick clean ahead of him arriving back with the second contingent, who would be taking on the Ski Foundation Level Two course.

JFSKI 2015 – Week Two
Flying out to Saltzberg, our new group quickly bonded and, during our first dinner together, a ‘chilli challenge’ was made, one kept aside, which would go to the person who had done the stupidest thing during the week! No sooner had day one begun, Ed received the first nomination for the stupidest thing done during the week. Thinking that his skis were broken, he wanted to go back to the shop, only to be advised to “try again Edward, but this time put the break down!”

With WO1 Andre Noel as our instructor, the first day saw everyone getting used to being back on skis, and focussing on posture, balance and weight transfer. We then practised pole planting. Day two had us practising more on-piste skills, including; sliding down the slope in a turning leaf, hockey stopping, and 360 degree turns. Shane didn’t have the best day, snapping a pole and then getting stuck in what, to most, was no more than a simple turnstile!

On day three, we had an introduction to ski touring, which started with a brief history of the ski. With new skis and boots we all leant how to put on skins. We then went for a little walk and leant how to turn whilst going uphill. While some found this easier than others, the chilli had by now taken its effect on the Stn Adjt, who spent a little longer than the rest of us trying to get up the hill. After lunch we familiarised ourselves with using  transceivers and probes, and putting together shovels. The need for urgency was stressed in the form of races to get the kit together. Now, you would have thought that PTIs would have excelled at this, but sadly no. Andre gave us an in depth demonstration on transceiver search drills, and showed us what was expected for the assessment the next day. The day culminated in skiing off the mountain and some Apres ski action to warm up our, by now, frozen toes.

The following day, with skins on, maps out, and transceivers switched to transmit, we were ready for a morning of touring. Well, we were once Shane had worked out what he was doing with his boots! Picking our way up through a wood, we toured up the side of the mountain. It was a ‘blue bird day’ and the views were beautiful, with a deer sighted in the wood. However, no sooner than we had completed one part of the tour, our group had to put its training into action, an injury to one of our party requiring immediate response; yes, me! Unfortunately, a fall injured my knee and, after being strapped up, a skidoo was arranged to get me off the mountain. Ed kindly took me to the Krankenhaus (Hospital). The rest of the group completed the transceiver assessments and built a quinzee (snow shelter) before coming up with the face plant man test! With the ski touring complete it was back on the piste, each student taking the lead to get round the mountain. For some, it was the first time that they had been down a black run, the result being some inopportune off-piste skiing.

With the course complete, the only piece of unfinished business on the last night was to award the chilli. As nobody could claim total innocence in the ‘not having done anything stupid’ stakes, including the instructor, it was chopped into nine pieces, everyone sampling what can only be described as the hottest chilli most had ever experienced. With the group setting out on the long journey home, they made their way to Liege in Belgium  where they stopped the night before making their way back to Wyton, via the Channel Tunnel. As for me, I flew home courtesy of the insurance company. It may have been somewhat quicker than travelling back to the UK by road, but I was in pain.

So, after two weeks of skiing, everyone had learnt something new. Some overcame fears, some learnt what its like to be totally exhausted. Some people had driven in Europe for the first time and some learnt to cook new meals. One of the things a great many of us took away, was that you can do so much more than you think you can, when encouraged to do so – or firmly pushed! I would therefore encourage anyone who wants to follow in our footsteps, albeit possibly not mine, to look out for opportunities like these. Finally, on behalf of everyone who participated in JFSKI 2015, I would like to thank  our instructors for giving us their time, knowledge and, of course, patience!

JFSKI Class of 2015
Sean Poff, Julie Sanderson, Mike Pepper, Jim Gregory, Glynne Chambers, Andrew MacMenemey, Kerry Finlay, Stuart Turner, Abigail Welburn, Andre Noel, Edward Freeman, Dale Ellis, Claire Hobbs, Richard Weatherburn and Shane Mutimer.