Happy New Year to the entire FIS Family!
2017 is upon us and it is one that is sure to be filled with many highlights in the world of skiing and snowboarding.
With the change of the calendar year come three major highlights even in the first month of 2017. Already underway is the 11th edition of the Tour de Ski, which kicked off in Val Mustair (SUI) on New Year’s Day. The Four Hills Tournament has completed three of the four stages with packed stadiums at extremely successful competitions. In its 65th edition the Four Hills has proven to be of one of winter sports most successful and enduring season highlight events.
Finally, we are all looking ahead with great anticipation to tonight, 4th January 2017 when Zagreb (CRO) will host a birthday celebration of the 50th year of the Alpine World Cup. This is sure to be a night to remember as there are many surprises in store involving former winners of the overall FIS Ski World Cup titles and Organisers of events during the past 50 years from all over the world. That commemorative celebration will be followed by the traditional January highlights, our own “Kings of Alpine Skiing” on the legendary courses in Wengen and Kitzbühel.
And that’s just January. In February and March the bi-annual climax for FIS will be staged on the slopes as St. Moritz (SUI), Lahti (FIN) and Sierra Nevada (ESP) will welcome the world’s best skiers at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship, the FIS Nordic World Ski Championship and the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships. This is the chance for our sport and athletes to shine on the biggest stage – and there is not a doubt in my mind that all three Organisers have prepared everything to the highest standards to enable the athletes to perform at their best.
The start of the 2016/17 competition season has proven to be both successful as well as challenging. Thus far, we have managed to save the bulk of our World Cup events from another early season of challenging snow conditions, as the Organisers have worked extremely hard to stage the events through a combination of being prepared for such eventualities, as well as being resourceful and improvising. I thank each and every Organiser for their massive efforts to ensure that the races can be staged no matter what Mother Nature brings our way.
We can only hope that with the start of the New Year the weather will change in Europe and we can enjoy some traditional winter weather. Snow is not just needed for FIS competitions, but also for an entire industry that is struggling with the third straight difficult winter. The first significant snowfall arrived in many places just after the turn of the year and hopefully there is much more to follow soon.
Away from the current competition activity, we have also unfortunately had too many recent headlines involving doping scandals. The second half of the McLaren report, with its focus on the corruption at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi (RUS), has stunned FIS and the entire winter sports family. These are never the headlines anyone wants in their sport. But with the storm comes the silver lining to the cloud, and I can only hope that for every scandal that is uncovered, it makes our sport that much fairer and cleaner in the future. I hope for every athlete that is caught, it prevents many more from considering any form of doping or cheating.
In just over one month, Pyeong Chang will officially celebrate the one-year-to-go mark until the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. They have a busy season ahead as all the Winter Federations, including FIS will hold multiple Test Events through the end of this season. The first of those competitions, in snowboard big air, is already concluded and was a big success. And when the next season starts, Pyeong Chang will be on the tips of everyone’s tongues as the final qualification period, team selections and pre-Games hype dominate the winter sports world.
But before the Olympics take centre stage, this is the year to celebrate our sport within our FIS family. I wish the hundreds of athletes preparing for each of the Alpine, Nordic and Freestyle Ski/Snowboard World Championships the best of luck. We all look forward to your outstanding performances and to crowning the next generation of World Champions. We also look forward to unforgettable performances and the many captivating storylines that await the ski world.
I would also like to extend greetings to all of our organisers, athletes, media members, supporters and the many fans of our sport a successful and peaceful 2017. There is no better way to start this new year than heading out and enjoying the snow!
Gian Franco Kasper