Exploring Val Thorens: An Adventure of a Lifetime


Army Training Unit (West) (ATU (W)) – Alpine Ski Mountaineering Expedition 11 – 21 January 2024

Exploring Val Thorens: An Adventure of a Lifetime

This expedition was supported financially by Wessex RFCA

Words and pictures by Sergeant Miller of Army Training Unit (West).

Over the period of 11th to 21st January 2024, The Soldier Academy (Reserve), embarked on an exhilarating Adventurous Training (AT) expedition named Exercise Alpine Marmot. This inaugural trip, organised by ATU (W), brought together the entire Soldier Academy (Reserve) network for a unique Alpine Ski Mountaineering experience.

The Alpine Playground of Val Thorens

Nestled within the renowned ‘Les 3 Vallees’ region, Val Thorens sits majestically at an altitude of 2,300 meters above sea level. Boasting over 150 kilometres of meticulously groomed slopes, this alpine paradise offered the perfect setting for refining skiing skills. Thanks to its lofty elevation, Val Thorens guarantees consistently excellent snow conditions throughout the season, providing an ideal canvas for the Service Personnel (SP) to refine their techniques.

Unleashing Potential Through Ski Mountaineering

Alpine Ski Mountaineering, hailed as a critical Joint Service Adventure Training (AT) activity, plays a pivotal role in fostering essential attributes such as leadership, resilience, decision-making, and physical fitness among SP. Guided by qualified and experienced AT instructors, participants are pushed beyond their comfort zones, confronting the mental and physical hurdles inherent in the Training.

Far from being a mere vacation, this expedition defied common misconceptions by integrating rigorous elements of ski touring and avalanche awareness training into the comprehensive Ski Foundation (SF) 3 & 2 course curriculum. Novice skiers enrolled in the SF 1 group underwent a remarkable transformation, swiftly transitioning from mastering rudimentary techniques to tackling the expansive slopes of Val Thorens, scaling heights surpassing 3,200 meters.

The relentless challenge was further intensified by the unforgiving mountain climate, with temperatures plunging to chilling lows between -8 and -22 degrees Celsius. Each endeavour, whether a downhill descent or a strategic manoeuvre, carried an added layer of complexity, pushing participants to test their limits and adapt to adverse conditions with unwavering determination.

Fostering Team Cohesion

The expedition achieved its objective of enhancing team cohesion and providing SP with unforgettable experiences. Amidst the breath-taking alpine scenery, participants bonded over shared triumphs and challenges, creating lasting memories while advancing their skiing abilities at individual levels.

Wessex RFCA supported all ATU (West) participants buy contributing to the expedition fund which greatly added to the success of the activity.

Looking Ahead

While Val Thorens awaits its next season, plans are in motion for another thrilling adventure for those ready to embrace the slopes and conquer new heights. In conclusion, the Val Thorens expedition showcased the transformative power of adventure, uniting SP from diverse backgrounds in a shared pursuit of excellence amidst the stunning backdrop of the French Alps.






Reserve Forces