You are unique in that you have a very diverse background touching on so many professional roles. How does this help you as a Chairman of Sub-Committee for Alpine World Cup?
My background allows me to better understand the possibilities as well as the challenges of every stakeholder - you have to be sensitive to all. There has to be a balance to gain trust. But overall, we have to say, athletes are number one.
What role does the World Cup Committee play in the future of the sport?
We historically focused on details such as competition calendar and rules. But in my tenure I’ve been looking more to the future - how we can overcome challenges and improve our tour. Athletes are the highest priority but the commercial side with broadcasters and sponsors, like Longines, is important.
How have you approached your role to accelerate the evolutionary process of change?
I had to first simply achieve trust – and I feel we have done that. The biggest asset we have is the huge passion and interest from everyone in the committee. Everyone is dedicated and has been working with the World Cup in some way most of their lives. It’s easy to see change when you have that passion. My aim has been to simplify it.
How do you balance the diverse interests of a global sport contested on three continents?
We must maximize the potential of every World Cup race. But those races hold a different position in every single country. In Austria it’s the national sport and we could have races every day of week. In Germany, Scandinavia and America it’s a bit different. We need to be nimble and adjust to what each market demands.
What are some of the changes fans will see on the tour in seasons ahead?
We’ve put a lot of visionary thinking into formats. The alpine team event is a good example. The evolution of night time City Events in metropolitan areas has been extremely successful with the head-to-head parallel format. We will be in Oslo and Stockholm this year. With new events coming on, it also means we need to take some away and we will be evolving out of the alpine combined over the next years. At the same time, we have desire from organizers and broadcasters to reduce the starting field. This is a sensitive area and the backbone of our teams. We have to take it step-by-step.
It’s amazing that athletes hit 130km/h with winners determined by a hundredth of a second. How does the sport manage that precision?
Athletes today are skiing at the absolute highest level. The differences between them are very minute. Longines has developed some amazing technology to share athlete speed and other data which helps teams and fans better understand what happens on course. It’s such a small difference. The cooperation with Longines provides much more insight into what the athletes do. Being able to better tell the story of our athletes to the fans with tools like this is paramount to our future.
Ski racing is unique among competitive sports with its direct tie-in to recreational skiing. How does that help the tour?
We are an outdoor sport. We are in active, elegant ski resorts around the world. What makes it successful is how proud every mountain resort and community are to hold a World Cup. They work so hard to make it perfect. And it’s always a changing environment for athletes to perform. The connection between the competitive skiing we do within a mass participation sport with a touristic backbone is a remarkable opportunity for us.
What are some new things to watch in the season ahead?
The World Cup will come to a dramatic conclusion at a new Finals site this March at Soldeu, Andorra in the Pyrenees. It’s great to see a small, new country organize a World Cup. To listen to them and hear about the impact it will have on tourists coming to Andorra is incredible. It’s important for us to bring new organizers to the World Cup.
Finally, sport is about stars and heroes. How do the stars resonate in ski racing?
Everyone wants to see the heroes doing amazing performances. To see someone like Mikaela last season winning her second overall crystal globe and Askel pushing back from injuries and getting back to the top – these were remarkable accomplishments. We can try to make the World Cup more attractive with great venues and great weather. But at the end of the day, it’s the human heroes who connect with the kids. They are our biggest assets. They are amazing role models for our sport. We just need to give them exciting venues and fair sport. They will do the rest.