A truly exceptional winter
Competitive alpine skiing is ready for an exceptional and indeed historic winter! The ski world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Alpine Ski World Cup, which, since 1967, has crowned the best athletes over the course of a season, thanks to a points system that rewards the top finishers at each official race. The World Cup was launched in the middle of summer, in August 1966, during the Alpine World Ski Championships in Portillo, Chile. It was the brainchild of a group of experts and racers, and was met with the favourable consideration of the FIS president of the time, Marc Hodler. It is considered to be the first true international circuit in individual sports, coming before the PGA Tour, which got its start in December 1968, and before the ATP Tour, which began in 1972. Since 5 January 1967 and the men’s slalom at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, thousands of point competitions have taken place all over the world, allowing an increasing number of racers to make a living from their athletic pursuits. At the same time, ski resorts are pulling out all the stops to try to get these skiers on their slopes. Whereas the first edition saw 34 competitions for men and women organised in a handful of countries, there were more than 80 events last winter, spread out over 15 countries in the Northern Hemisphere, including South Korea. The FIS (International Ski Federation) has been preparing for a fitting celebration of this 50th anniversary, the exact date of which coincidated with the races in Zagreb, Croatia. This is also the case for a number of other ski resorts that featured on the calendar of that initial year of 1967, particularly Sestriere and Madonna di Campiglio in Italy, Adelboden and Wengen in the Bernese Oberland and Kitzbühel in the Austrian Tyrol.
“The FIS has always been a dynamic federation capable of changing with the times and adapting its disciplines and rules to the modern world,” says its president Gian-Franco Kasper. The World Cup, initiated in 1966 by our friend Serge Lang, clearly revolutionised competitive alpine skiing, as well as other snow sports. Afterwards, it provided momentum for a large number of other sports which were to create their own World Cup circuits, including, it seems to me, equestrian sports. Little by little, a more rational system was implemented in our disciplines, with the creation of continental and regional circuits, which attracted thousands of young athletes, and at the same time national federations became very professional organisations. The numbers speak for themselves. All you have to do is compare the number of international races organised around the world today, or the number of racers on the FIS points lists, to the figures from the ’60s to realise the extent to which winter sports have developed since the creation of the World Cup. Our organisation itself has acquired real importance, notably from the fact that dozens of people are responsible for the smooth operation of World Cup circuits in the different disciplines controlled by the FIS. The influence of winter sports also made it possible for the Olympic Winter Games to increase in importance, as can be seen by the fact that they began to be organised independently from the Summer Games starting in 1994. The Alpine Ski World Cup is the backbone of this discipline for the FIS, which is happy to have thousands of people – racers, organising committees, officials from national federations, members of the international press – involved in this important event.