Pauline takes to the slopes to hone her skills

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A MONTROSE soldier has been honing her military skills in the freezing environment of the snow capped French Alps.

Corporal Pauline Cairns (28), of the Adjutant General’s Corps, was one of 320 soldiers to compete in Army skiing contest Exercise Pipedown, organised by 1 (UK) Armoured Division in the French Alpine town of Les Contamines de Montjoie near Mont Blanc.

The former academy pupil, who learned to ski on an Army course, competed in the Nordic (cross country) races finishing ninth in the ladies’ event.

Pauline, who joined the Army in 2004, has served in Northern Ireland, Chile and Afghanistan where she may return to later in the year.

She said: “Someone just said I should compete here just to experience it and see what the Army could offer. So I just went for it and it is great being here, it’s good physically and a lot of fun especially when everyone falls and piles into each other.”

Nordic skiing, often coupled with shooting as a biathlon event, is one of the most popular disciplines for military people, and is widely regarded as one of the most arduous and physically demanding sports.

Hiking enthusiast Pauline, whose parents Dennis and Sarah now live in Alva, Clackmannanshire, added: “For me the main thing is the fitness. I have made some good friendships here and it’s great to really do some good team work and actually spend some time with some other females as I am from a unit of mostly all men.”

Exercise Pipedown, held last month, is part of the British Army’s programme of adventurous training and provides an ideal opportunity to hone important skills, enhancing an individual’s ability to withstand the rigours of operations and rapid deployments.

It also offers the opportunity for novices and experts alike to ski under international competition rules.

During the championships soldiers’ physical and mental strength is tested to the limit in a variety of individual and team events including a 10km biathlon sprint, a 4 X 10 km relay, slaloms, downhill skiing a 1 km floodlit challenge and a 20 km military patrol race an event designed to test soldiers in all the essential military skills expected of them on operations including marksmanship, map reading and physical endurance.