Travel notes: a charity ski-marathon in Klosters, Switzerland

In the winter of 2016, Emma (Sims Hilditch), her husband, John and son, Billy all decided that this would be the year that they participated in The Business Challenge event for the lesser-known charity Supporting Wounded Veterans

For those who are yet to encounter the UK-based charity, its fundamental aim is to do precisely as its namesake implies – to offer help, care, counselling and support to former soldiers. They are likely to be battling life-changing physical and/or mental injuries, assisting them as they try to rebuild their lives. Supporting Wounded Veterans runs pain management clinics and psychiatric clinics, providing counselling and support more quickly than what would be available through the NHS.

Each year, they host a particular fundraising initiative that involves a four-day ski marathon in the alpine region of Klosters, Switzerland. Termed The Business Challenge – because multiple businesses enter to compete against one another – it is both part therapy, and partly a way to help gather funds to fuel the charity’s crucial existence. Emma was so moved by the charity, we decided that this year, she should pass the baton on to another of our studio team at Sims Hilditch. 

In January 2018, I am very proud to say it was my turn.

We arrived in Switzerland on 18th January 2018. Prior to this, we had arranged a pre-event training and exercise at Mount Snowdon. We felt that this would be an opportune moment to also boost our fundraising efforts, as our hope was to reach £10,000. Despite being well-seasoned skiers, it turned out to be somewhat troublesome as our timing coincided with the arrival of Storm Brian. What should have taken us perhaps four hours, turned into a struggle of eight hours and more, with us eventually having to abandon ship due to safety concerns caused by the ferocious winds. The Snowdonia weekend however did result in our team name crystallising – Storm Brian. 

In Switzerland, we were joined by another 16 teams and 36 veterans in total, some of whom were very open about sharing their stories. Others had not quite reached this point, remaining in the critical stages of early rehabilitation. They were simply unable to share their experiences at this point, which was so painful to see. Some had suffered in a training exercise, while others had been in war zones. Some had no physical damage to their bodies, but were haunted by PTSD. Others experienced both. We spent much time with two veterans in particular, named Carl and Del. Their stories though I do not feel are mine to share. To be opened up to is a gesture of confidence that I care to respect.

The 19th January was when the challenge fully unfurled. The first part involved skiing as much of the mountain as we could without completing the same ski run twice. The level of snow meant that the uppermost section was closed, and so the event was altered slightly, evolving into more of a treasure hunt, but an incredibly exhausting one! They called it The Yeti Challenge. 

The following day, the second stage of the event took place – a giant slalom. Every team competed to race each other, some much more competitive than others. It was so lovely to see everyone having fun, gathering together, no signs of acknowledgment of injuries, this is what the charity does so incredibly well.

That evening, the charity arranged a Gala Dinner and awards ceremony. Wonderfully, it was one of the veteran teams that were the overall victors. In every sense. 

Next year, it shall be my turn to pass on the baton once more to another of our team. Though, if I am able to take part for a second time, it would be nothing short of an honour. It was a truly incredible experience. One that puts life into sharp, necessary perspective. 

Currently, our fundraising efforts are just over £7,000, with £10,000 being our goal. If you would like to make a donation to Supporting Wounded Veterans, you can still do so until End of March by visiting our JustGiving page.

Thank you. 

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