May 3rd 2023

Exercise Dragon Sorbet: Alpine skiing for 37th Signal Regiment in Austria

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Fourteen skiing novices were met with less-than-ideal conditions as Reserves from 37th Signal Regiment embarked on their annual skiing expedition, Exercise Dragon Sorbet, in January.

In Kirchdorf, Austria, high winds and heavy snow forced the Reservists to put all they had learned about winter hazards, ski safety, and alpine skiing into practice on their Ski Foundation Level 1 course.

In total, 20 personnel from the British Army unit travelled to the Austrian ski resort.

While based in Redditch, two of 37th Signal Regiment’s soldiers come from Nottingham: Thomas Randall and John Halstead. Both signallers received financial support from East Midlands Reserve Forces and Cadets Association and the Royal Signals Charity for the trip.

Stunning winter scenery in Kirchdorf, Austria.

St Jakob and Winklemoose

For the first couple of days, the group skied on the green – also known as ‘nursery’ – slopes of St Jakob. As the name suggests, the slopes are perfectly suited to beginners due to their low gradient.

By day two, instruction had now progressed to plow parallel turns and the use of button and T-bar lifts. At this point, it was evident that some of the group, including John Halstead, had skied before.

With confidence and skill levels increasing, the group graduated from ‘green’ to ‘blue’ graded pistes – the ski runs of compacted snow – and moved to an area known as Winklemoose on the German side of Steinplatte.

The area offers a couple of wide runs that are perfect for novices to practice plough and parallel turns. This was also the students’ first encounter with chain lifts.

Some of the more nervous skiers from day one were now beginning to shine.

Weather takes a turn

Photo 16 Sig Randal Most Improved (1)

By day five, the forecast had radically changed with high winds of up to 30mph and heavy snow forecast for 48 hours. The group, therefore, travelled up the Steinplatte – another area that offers great skiing for novices and intermediates.

They began with a walkthrough of piste maps and navigation before moving on to skiing in closer groups due to the weather.

Today was also test day, requiring the students to successfully demonstrate the skills they had been taught. Despite the challenging conditions, all learners passed their Ski Foundation Level 1, demonstrating a good level of skill on trails with a gradient of up to 45%.

The relentless weather conditions were steadfast for the final day, so the students enjoyed putting their skills into practice in smaller groups in Sankt Johann with the talk turning to planning Dragon Sorbet for 2024.

To mark the end of the week, a number of awards were distributed for special achievements. Sig Tom Randall (right) was recognised for being the most improved skier.


Has 37th Signal Regiment’s skiing expedition piqued your interest in the Reserves? Contact your local unit.