Tim Cafe provides a report on the Swiss Delegation at Inteski……
The Swiss team at interski really were the whole package. They were killer technical skiers. They were fun, playful skiers; with freestyle skills and some very creative and entertaining passes on the demo hill. They killed it in the races. They put on a show for the crowd. They were a team – supporting each other and doing their roles as they were told to do by their coaches. They were by far the most approachable and open of the top European teams. Their presentations were slick, and to me their material was on point. They were PROFESSIONAL.
© Madlaina Walther Photography
By professional, I mean it in all senses of the word. All of that great positive stuff we have come to describe as ‘acting professional’ but also the other meaning – to them, this is a job.
Swiss Snowsports takes this skiing thing rather seriously. They have a team of 9 alpine, 4 snowboarders, 2 tele and 2 nordic selected along with a coach, and they really are a team. They of course still have jobs in their home resorts but are often on the road training instructors throughout Switzerland and spent a long time training together prior to interski – and boy did it show!
Like most countries the Swiss are very interested in development of children in our sport. Their take on it, however, is more ‘full circle’ than most countries. Of course, they start at the young ages – they have the Swiss Snowsports League which is somewhat similar to our FUNdamentals booklet only more refined and with a superior online system. But the issue they are currently working to solve is how to keep teenagers in the sport so the they a) become lifelong skiers, b) continue becoming better skiers and c) become the ski instructors of the next generation! Introducing the overall theme for the Swiss – ‘from Teen to Keen’. They highlighted their plan through a couple of indoor lectures:
• The Importance of Learning Environment and Stages of Development in Learning
• From Guest to Snowsports Instructor
The lectures all related to the overall theme ‘from Teen to Keen’ and presented different parts of their system which is tackling the drop-off in skier numbers around age 12. I’ll explain the material from these two lectures in one go since it’s necessarily interrelated.
The lectures began by explaining the Swiss Snow League – the programme/booklet I mentioned above similar to our FUNdamentals. It has similar levels to ours but uses words like prince/princess and king/queen rather than just the green, blue, black levels. Like our FUNdamentals it also covers skills from all aspects of skiing; freestyle, race, freeride. To add to this booklet, which has been around for some years, they have added a new chapter – the Swiss Snow Academy.
The Swiss Snow Academy is designed for kids aged 12 and above. It’s differentiated from the younger programme intentionally – teens can sometimes get the ‘too cool’ thing going on and certainly aren’t motivated by the same things younger kids are. For instance, when the kids graduate from the League to the Academy they are given a very cool black buff with a star on it; a status symbol for the kids to identify with and recognize each other. The Swiss Snow Academy involves more freestyle and park based activities. And finally, the coolest point of difference (in my opinion), the kids in the Academy get a plastic card which looks very similar to the card instructors get from Swiss Snowsports – with their different tasks stamped in the same way that instructors have their tasks ticked off. This card also gives the kids access to discounted lift passes and discounted equipment at many sports shops.
As you can imagine this ingenious move has a secondary effect of providing Swiss Snowsports with an excellent database. The database, combined with the retention of students and the card, provides the framework for their other goal – turning teens into the next generation of Snowsports professionals.
The Swiss Snow League and Swiss Snow Academy systems were explained and demonstrated further in their On Snow Workshop.
I had the pleasure of attending the workshop with Celine Arnold – one of NZSIA’s Trainers and an incredible asset to our alliance. Celine’s workshop weaved seamlessly between a presentation of the material, an accurate and inspiring demonstration of the tasks and an example of an excellent ski lesson. She dealt with tough weather conditions, busy lift lines, a huge group split and time constraints in the manner we came to expect from the Swiss – professionally!
Initiative for Snowsports: Switzerland
This workshop explained that in contrast to other key European nations such as France and Austria the numbers of skiers in Switzerland, year-on-year, are reducing. Also of concern, the average age of skiers is going up. This is seen as a huge issue on a national level – local and national body governments agree that they must do something about it since skiing is such a huge part of the Swiss economy.
The reasons identified for this domestically are the decline of younger skiers getting into and being retained in the sport. Internationally the main issue is the strength of the Swiss Franc. They can’t do much about that, but they can attempt to control the domestic market. One step is the Academy explained above. But the overall picture needs much more work than that. They have partnered with government and private sponsors to help organise the GoSnow.ch programme. It is a central booking platform for guests and schools to access skiing, with connections to instructors and ski schools. There are funded camps throughout the season with heavy subsidies for school children and school groups. The goals of the programme are:
• 50% of teaching staff (primary schools) know about the GoSnow platform in 1 year’s time
• 100 camp offers in winter 2015-16
• 150 camp offers in winter 2016-17
• 3,000 children take part in a GoSnow snow sports camp in 2015-16
• 5,000 children take part in a GoSnow snow sports camp in winter 2016-17
The programme is funded 50% by state public funds and 50% by private/founding members (Swiss Snowsports is one of these).
It was a pleasure and an inspiration to watch and learn from the Swiss at interski. If you would like more info you will find the slideshows of the indoor lectures here:
and the videos from Swiss Snowsports can be found here:
Photos © Madlaina Walther Photography