A Royal Air Force skiing champion has thrown down the thermal gauntlet and challenged everyone in the Air Force to get out to what he calls, “one of the best things in the Air Force you can do.”
Downhill skiing ace and captain of the Men’s RAF Ski Team, Corporal Gary Smith an ICT Technician from RAF Halton, is one of 700 RAF regulars, reservists, MoD civilians and contractors who have joined together for the two week festival of Alpine winter sport in Austria.
Alpine Challenge brings together RAF downhill skiers, snow boarders and telemark skiers of all abilities for tuition, coaching and to compete in the RAF Ski and Snowboard Championships. From here, the best skiers and boarders are selected to represent the RAF at the Inter-Services Championships.
Twelve years on, Gary remembers his first experience at the Ski Champs as an 18 year old and so understands what it is like for the newbies today. He said:
“On my 18th birthday I actually came away to the Champs as a beginner and started on the novice slopes. Luckily at the time there was a guy who was into racing and he pushed me towards a racing career. A lot of the guys are nervous at first but once they get to the bottom they just want to get back to the top and give it a go again. I think out here today is some of the best fun you can have. There’s a lot of fun to be had off the hill as well.”
“When I first went to the careers office one of the things that got me excited about joining up were the posters of people doing skiing and I really wanted to give it a go and now I’m standing here doing it myself. If you’ve never skied before, I really think you should come out and give the RAF Ski Champs a go. I think it’s one of the best things in the Air Force you can do.”
The RAF has a
great reputation for encouraging its people to get involved in sport and while
hurtling down a snow covered mountain at up to 60 miles per hour might be a
completely different environment to the sandy climes of recent operations, the
courage required comes close.
Alpine Challenge is open to all MOD personnel, reserves, cadets, families and those personnel in related organizations such as contractors and industry. Costs are kept low with generous help from sponsors and serving personnel who would like to attend can apply for financial assistance from their units. Holders of Sports Lottery tickets are also entitled to apply for funding.
For those who want to take up Gary’s challenge, more information can be found on Airspace via the RAF website or from unit winter sports officers.
Editor: Flying Officer Peter Lisney
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