IT’S a long way from the desert heat of Afghanistan - but soldiers from Sheffield and north Derbyshire have been honing their military skills in the freezing environment of the snow-capped French Alps.
Second Lieutenant Simon Waterston, aged 24, Private Alexander John Talbot, 18, both members of the Royal Logistics Corps, and Sergeant Andrew Marshall, of the Royal Artillery, were among 300 members of the Army to compete in skiing contest Exercise Pipedown.
The event was staged in Les Contamines de Montjoie, near Mont Blanc.
Second Lt Waterston, a former pupil at Silverdale School, Bents Green, took part in the Alpine downhill event after learning how to ski as part of an Army skiing course.
He said: “I’ve done around five weeks of alpine skiing in the last year and this is my first competition - the standard is very high.
“Competitive skiing is physically more demanding and a very different style to recreational skiing.
“This was an opportunity to do something I have never done before – to take on a hard challenge and see how we all perform in a competitive atmosphere.”
Sgt Marshall, 34, a former Rossington School student joined the Army in 1994 and has completed tours in Kosovo, Bosnia and Northern Ireland. He took part in the Nordic cross country event.
He said: “This is my first competition, I’m enjoying the fitness side of it and have picked up the sport really well.”
Pte Talbot, from Matlock, and a former Highfields School pupil, was also taught to ski by the Army.
Alexander, who joined the Army in 2010 and may deploy to Afghanistan later in the year, said: “I started learning how to ski towards the end of November, it’s something I always wanted to do.
“We all support each other and help each other out.”
Exercise Pipedown is part if the British Army’s programme of winter sports.
It helps hone skills enhancing an individual’s ability to withstand the rigors of operations and rapid deployments.
Soldiers’ physical and mental strength was tested to the limit in a variety of events including a 10km biathlon sprint, a 4x10km relay, slaloms, downhill skiing and a 1km floodlit challenge.