Telemarking for the RAF

Following up on last year’s successful foray into the world of competitive Telemark skiing, Flt Lt Clare Thomas leads a strong contingent from RAF Benson to the 2015 Inter-Services and the RAF Ski Championships.

Never before has one mountain seen so many Royal Air Force Telemarkers in one lunging melee, and what a sight it was to behold. Maybe it’s down to a perceived need to “free the heel and free the mind, look good on the slopes”, do some quality phys, or just because lunging is so much fun, but telemarking is the hottest new trend on the snow. The 2015 season marked a new era for RAF Telemarking with the number of participants growing exponentially and interest growing throughout the military.

The season started early with the RAF team, heavily supported by Benson personnel, making their way to Rauris, Austria for Ex TELEMARK TITAN. Despite a greeting of horizontal rain and limited visibility we were given a warm reception by the Army, who run this Ex each year as their main training event. They also involve the folks from Great Britain Telemark who use the event to train and select our national team, as well as to promote and develop the sport. This is was the first time that the RAF could take full advantage of the training and it was a fantastic set up from start to finish. 140 telemarkers were on the mountain each day and there was even evidence that the Army, Navy and RAF could play together nicely.

After a week with our Slovenian coach (who, incidentally, had to leave early to meet his national team at the World Cup – yep, he was pretty average), it was time to prep for the British Open. This was made up of the Classic and Classic Sprint races. Nick Fenge (from our very own Regiment Section) made his debut in the development race and finished strongly to secure his spot in the official event.

The race course this year was a much more comfortable race experience than last season’s Inter-Services introduction that some of us had on the downhill course at Meribel. The rain stopped, the sun was out and we’d actually had some training; things were looking pretty good. Our lunging looked better from the outset and we picked up far fewer time penalties on our way down the course. After a couple of non-serious crashes and some skating uphill, most of us managed to finish and, for the first time, the RAF had positions in the GB Open. Joe Goodwin, Pat Mitchell and Toby Stedman all finished in the top half of the field, whilst Clare Thomas was the 4th female to cross the line. After a solid performance, the RAF left the Inter-Services feeling confident and our colleagues from the other Services looking a little shocked and arguably flustered.

On completion of the first week in Rauris, the team moved 45 minutes down the road to Saalbach-Hinterglemm to join in with the RAF Ski Champs. A little higher than Rauris, the fresh snow and bright sunshine was a welcome sight. Those of us racing had been commuting back to do so, but the main focus of this second week was to get more people telemarking in the RAF. There was a great take up on our “tele tasters”, with full groups going out each  afternoon with our coach, Ian Acey. It was great to see so many people from such a variety of backgrounds giving it a go, and loving it. We had regular skiers looking for something a bit different, snowboarders who hadn’t put on skis before, along with sponsors, instructors and racers who were wondering what all the fuss was about.

On the final evening of the Champs we attended the Awards Ceremony knowing that there was another first about to happen. The Chairman of Telemark, Joe Goodwin, was actually in a position to select a team for the Inter-Services and present its members alongside the alpine and snowboard teams. We are now officially the 3rd snow sport discipline; all we had to do was deliver at Meribel. Unfortunately the photos haven’t come through for the Inter Services just yet, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for those in the RAF News and Active. However, I will mention that Pat Mitchell claimed the first RAF telemark podium place coming 3rd in the Sprint Classic on the first day of racing.

The RAF Telemarking Team is looking to grow so why not come and trying telemarking! Events where you can give it a go are: GB Telemark Indoor Series – takes place during the summer over 4 weekends at various locations around the country. You train on the Saturday with some of the top instructors in the country and have the option to race on the Sunday. Equipment is provided and entry fees are funded.

RAF Ski Champs 2016 – when you sign up with your Station look for the telemark lessons which will be an option in the same way that the alpine skiing and snowboard ones are.

Interested? Contact Clare Thomas at clare.thomas994@mod.uk or Joe Goodwin at jolyon.goodwin761@mod.uk for more information. It would be great to see you there.

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