For those of you not aware, there is a small town in southern Germany, just a stones throw from the Austrian border, called Ruhpolding.
It is a quaint town filled with both old and modern buildings, some decorated with traditional Bavarian artwork, cafes and restaurants, and niche little shops that sell anything from trinkets to traditional Bavarian clothing. It’s a picture postcard kind of place with its church set on a high point and providing lovely views over the town and surrounding area.

However, each year, in mid-January, this small town is descended upon by thousands (yes, thousands!) of Biathlon fans as, a short drive out of Ruhpolding, nestled on one side of a picturesque valley, is the Chiemgau Arena, a bespoke Biathlon course. For a little over 5 days the town, and its surrounding area is a frenzy of activity, as the World’s best Biathletes compete in the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup and put on a show for all to see.

Then, as quickly as the hype and frenzy started, the town and Arena, return to their respective slumber.

Or do they?

In actuality, as the visiting hoards depart, the town welcomes the arrival of around 200 British Armed Forces personnel (British Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Marines & Royal Navy), local German club skiers, members of the German Armed and Security Forces, British Biathlon Club (BBC) members and British Biathlon Union (BBU) development and Cup skiers, and a number of civilian individual skiers, for two weeks of competition.
Wait, go back. Read that last paragraph again. Military (check), BBC skiers (check), BBU skiers (check), civilian skiers (check)….wait, civilian? Isn’t this a military competition? For the most part it is, BUT, all the races are also British National competitions and it’s not just Biathlon. It also includes cross-country races. In fact, the first 5 days of competition are devoted purely to cross-country.

Everything is excellently organised and hosted by the Army Winter Sports Association and Army Nordic who put on an annual event that any keen, talented or wannabe cross-country skier or biathlete should mark their calendars accordingly and focus their training to attend and compete in.
This year’s competition was the first since 2020 and the Covid Pandemic and all competitors and organisers were thankful that it went ahead. For those of us that have had the opportunity to compete in Ruhpolding multiple times, it felt like a homecoming. Everything was the same yet a little different, a little fresher, a little newer, with the air tinged with both excitement and respect to this incredible venue.
There is no denying that the British Army bring a large contingent to this competition, with the Royal Air Force next and then the Royal Navy/Royal Marines. For the military there are lots of trophies on offer for Inter-Service, Inter-Corp, overall best individual and team etc.
However, for the GB civilian community, there are also those national trophies to be won. So, if you’re a cross-country skier, or budding biathlete, and want to see what it’s like to compete in a well organised, friendly and supportive competition, then put a note in your calendar for 25 Jan 2024 and we’ll see you there!
For all information and race results, visit the Army Winter Sports Association Web page.

If you are inspired to give cross country ski racing a go, then why not try rollerskiing? Rollerskiing is the non snow equivalent of cross country skiing and SE have a number of clubs across the country. The clubs offer equipment hire and use closed cycle circuits for sessions. The clubs details can be found at www.snowsportengland.org.uk.

For any Juniors between 8-18 years old, why not try Nordic Futures sessions, contact steph@snowsportengland.org.uk for more details or click here to see what sessions are available: https://snowsportengland.sport80.com/public/widget/3

The GB Rollerski series is an ideal way to start racing in preparation for the on snow cross country championships, for more details contact nordic@snowsportengland.org.uk.

Written by Flt Lt  Andy Goodwin

raf nordic group pic_Stephanie Cook
nordic racer 2_Stephanie Cook
RAF nordic racer 1_Stephanie Cook
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