Deputy Chair Snowboarding , Lt Col Dennis Ledger

The ISSSC 19 Snowboard competition in Meribel featured the return of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with a full team, which combined with a new Snowboard enabling team from the resort, created a competition with an excellent vibe and demanding courses. The 4 teams had a broad range of talent and there were some great individual duals: both the men’s and ladies’ teams were fairly evenly matched.

With no shortage of snow, the course-setters and park shapers were able to significantly amend what hand been built previously and the utilisation of a World Cup Snowboard cross course-setter presented a new feel and technical challenge to the first event. As a crowd pleaser the snowboard cross has it all and ability to watch it from above the course ensured a strong turnout to cheer the athletes on.

With two of the services represented, and a member of the ADF, in the final, it was always going to be tight.  The Army’s Sgt Kriss Looker proved to be dominant and held off a resurgent LAET Ross Taylor (RN) and Cpl Danial Robinson (ADF).  The ladies final was between Sgt Lisa Quinn and the Royal Navy.  Fighting off 3 determined riders from the same service in snowboard cross is not easy, but she managed to do so, pushing Surg Cdr Steph Ingram and AB Aaby Aldridge into 2nd and 3rd respectively.

The Parallel Slalom qualifiers were held in Mottaret and the grand floodlit finals were held in of the Stade, Meribel.  The British Army and Naval Service men showed their strength in this event: they managed to take the majority of the knockout final spaces in the qualifiers, while there was an even split between the 4 teams in the ladies’ competition.

With a much longer course than previous years and a fast finish the competition was exciting from top to bottom.  The floodlit parallel slalom final is an easy event to spectate and with good tunes, food and drink, the finish area was a popular place to be on a Tuesday night in Meribel.  LAET Ross Taylor (RN) exacted his revenge on Sgt Kris Looker (Army), riding excellently and reminded us of his talent. Wg Cdr Claire Collis (RAF) found her mojo and beat a determined Capt Megan McDermott (ADF).

And so to the deciding event, the one that attracts the most attention and training from the competitors: Slopestyle.  The format was tweaked to allow for two separate finals in DC 43 Snowpark; the men’s being held on the Thursday and the ladies on the Friday. Unfortunately the weather closed in for the men’s final, so the decision, supported by men’s team captains was to conduct a single run, but with the qualifying scores to also count.  LAET Ross Taylor (RN) and AB Ian Sanderson (RN) replicated the previous year and clinched 1st and 2nd.  LCpl Matty Hannah (Army) put up a fantastic challenge and for his efforts he was awarded the Nelson Pratt memorial award for best trick – a backside hurricane (much to the President’s amusement).  The ladies slopestyle competition was executed in glorious blue skies and was not as tight as the men’s. Wg Cdr Claire Collis (RAF) retained her crown for the 3rd straight year and her victory was decisive.  AB Aaby Aldridge (RN) was 2nd and Lisa Quinn (Army) was 3rd

In the women’s overall individual competition the RAF’s Wg Cdr Claire Collis retained (for the 3rd year) her position as the top lady in UKAF Snowboarding, with the Army’s Sgt Lisa Quinn in 2nd and the RNs Aaby Aldridge in 3rd. In the men’s competition LAET Ross Taylor (RN) reclaimed his overall champion spot, with the Army’s Sgt Kris Looker and LCpl Matty Hannah second and third.  The UK Armed Forces Snowboard overall ladies’ team competition was won by the Army, despite being edged in 2 of the events by the Royal Navy ladies.  Themen’s team competition was won by the Army, who managed to head off the RN by 5 points in the overall scores.  To put this in perspective, that equates to the Army team being 0.6% better than the Royal Navy team: marginal gains!

A strong representation was provided on the National stage from the UK Armed Forces (UKAF) Snowboard Team, made up of 11 riders; 7 men and 4 ladies.

All team members gained considerable benefit from the coaching provided by Mr Barry Parker and Mr Dave Crozier. It was the first time the UKAF team have had the privilege of having two coaches and it paid huge dividends. Able to split their time between the smaller and larger parks, switching between the team to offer different tips and tactics was invaluable. Unfortunately, the team suffered two injuries.  SSgt Dale Gallagher dislocated his shoulder during trampoline training.  Flt Lt Paddy Morris then broke his shoulder after falling on a large kicker.  It was a shame for the team and the individuals; both were excelling during the training and showing huge improvements.

The competitions took place during the period 1 – 5 April 19.  As Slope Style and Snowboard Cross are both disciplines in the ISSSC, entry for all team members in these events was compulsory.  One team member also entered the Big Air competition to gain experience of bigger kickers in a tough competitive environment.  The year’s competition was no different to the previous years with the UK’s current Olympic athletes and young hopefuls attending in both a competitive and supporting capacity.

On the day of the Slope Style competition, the course was in beautiful weather at the top, with a big cloud inversion covering the bottom of the course for much of the time.  The organisers took the decision to take out the last two features of the course to allow people to stay safe and train on jumps and rails that were visible. The course was similar to previous years with the choice of three boxes or rails, followed by two consecutive jumps with choices again ranging from small, medium and large kickers.  The medium and large jumps were a significant step up from the size of the InterServices kickers.  Luckily, the good weather had provided the opportunity to train on the kickers before, but with the medium kicker being approximately 18 metres from take-off to landing, it was a big step up, especially for the less experienced.  However, it was a fantastic opportunity to those that craved a challenge.

Once again, the support and praise received from the British Snowboarding community was encouraging, with GB athletes and Olympians alike. They welcomed the fact that the UKAF team were competing at the BRITS and the team’s positive attitude and friendliness has since been cited in some worldwide snowboard publications such as planetSKI and Whitelines.

Of note there were three UKAF riders selected to compete in the Super Final (6 ladies and 12 men selected overall).  LAET Ross Taylor (RN) was 6th in the Super Final and AB Ian Sanderson (RN) was 7th.  It should be noted that in gaining their places they finished as 2nd and 3rd in the men’s Masters competition. Wg Cdr Claire Collis (RAF) was 4th in the Super Final and the 1st ladies’ Master and Sgt Lisa Quinn was 2nd Master and Maj Kelly Richard (Army) was 3rd Master.

The weather for Snowboard Cross was intermittent with some fog but it was clear enough for the SBX competition to run.  It was slightly more technical than previous years; however, it was easier than the courses we see at the Inter Services. Everyone managed two qualification runs before the heats. The team displayed some great determination in tough races against the likes of Olympic Bronze Medallist Billy Morgan and provided some encouraging results.

LCpl Matty Hannah (Army) managed 5th in the men’s open category and AB Ian Sanderson (RN) for finishing 4th in the Masters competition.  Wg Cdr Claire Collis (RAF) was 4th in the ladies open (forfeiting her Masters place) and Maj Kelly Richards was 3rd Master.

The UKAF team excelled both in terms of results and public engagement yet again.  Pushing themselves in an excellent setting with perfect weather, coaching and terrain allowed some of the best progression to date. The team dynamics were excellent and the results are testament to everyone’s determination and talents. The access to GB riders was also an inspiration.

The UKAF committee strives to improve not just the level of the athlete, but also the quality of all military competitions.  This year the UKAF WSA organised a Snowboard judging course to train new officials in the dark arts of judging freestyle competitions.  There was a good turn out from across the Army, RAF and RN and all showed their ability judge complex competition tricks. Special thanks must go to Air Cdre Dave Tozer who has engaged with snowsportsGB and FIS to get the UK’s top judge, and Flt Sgt Dickie Page who secured a venue and ‘smoothed’ the delivery.