Sailors and marines grow classier on the glacier during Telemark ski camp

More than 80 sailors and Royal Marines swapped warships and military bases for the dramatic setting of Stubai Glacier to sharpen their Telemark skiing skills.

Personnel from 18 different units across the land volunteered for the annual development camp, this year hosted on the slopes just outside Innsbruck in Austria.

 

They went through two weeks of intensive training from military and civilian experts on the largest winter camp run by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines in the 13 years it has nurtured the sport, which is still considered a niche alongside its Alpine cousins.

 

And although the fortnight was chiefly aimed at skiing prowess, improving fitness and fostering team spirit and morale, Exercise White Dagger also taught Royal Marines skills which they will use when they head to Norway in the New Year on their annual Arctic exercise.

 

Telemark skiing originated in the namesake region of Norway in the mid-19th Century. A long piece of synthetic fabric – known as a ‘skin’ – is fitted to skis to allow users to move uphill.  The ski binding fixes the toe but frees the heel, making its unique ‘lunging’ turn very distinctive on a downhill ski slope. The technique is extremely popular among Royal Marines thanks to their long-standing experience of cold weather and mountain training in Norway

 

Telemarking is recognised as an official Royal Navy winter sport. Each year White Dagger allows novice skiers to learn and develop their skills under a team of top-quality military and civilian instructors.  The exercise is also designed to support participation by the most junior ranks in the service – personnel who might otherwise never get involved in winter sports.

 

“White Dagger was a great opportunity for the most junior Royal Navy and Royal Marine ranks – both regular and reservist – to learn a challenging sport,” said organiser Warrant Officer Wayne Sear, Royal Marines, from the headquarters of the Littoral Strike Group based in Plymouth. “The skills and confidence they gain are also hugely transferrable to their military careers.”

White Dagger was a great opportunity for the most junior Royal Navy and Royal Marine ranks – both regular and reservist – to learn a challenging sport. The skills and confidence they gain are also hugely transferable to their military careers.

Warrant Officer Wayne Sear

Under his supervision, what started as a single minibus of keen volunteers in 2005, is expected to reach 100 participants by 2020.  While interest in Telemarking has fluctuated over the years in the civilian world, the sport continues to make inroads in the Navy, partially due to the Royal Marines’ expertise in the Arctic, but it is also because Telemarking is viewed as a more challenging and aesthetic version of downhill skiing.

 

Marine Tom Morgan from 45 Commando, based in Arbroath, said: “White Dagger was hoofing and a fantastic introduction to Telemark skiing.  It will really set me up for success during my deployment to Norway for Exercise Cold Response next year.”

 

Leading Seaman Archibald Lucas, from the Submarine Flotilla in Devonport, added: “White Dagger was excellent. For someone who has never skied before, it got me fully involved with the Telemark technique, and its definitely something I wish to continue alongside my Naval career.”

 

The exercise concluded with a slalom under race conditions followed by a prize ceremony. After two rigorous weeks of instruction, the sailors and marines cut an impressive sight as they Telemarked down the glacier – Scottish participants especially, dressed in kilts!

The top skiers from White Dagger will be selected for Exercise Telemark Titan, involving both military and Great British Telemark racing teams in France, before progressing on to both the Naval and Inter-Services competitions.  The 2019 season saw the Naval Service Telemark skiers win at the Inter-Services Snow Sports Championships – claiming victory over the Army and RAF for a third consecutive year.  Many of the Royal Marines will also put their new skills to the test during their annual winter deployment to Norway in January, culminating in Exercise Cold Response in March 2020.