Chat with the FIS Race Directors: Atle Skaardal and Guenter Hujara
On the eve of the 2013/14 season, FIS interviewed the ladies' and men's Chief Race Directors Atle Skaardal and Guenter Hujara to share their thoughts on the upcoming season.
With only a few days to go until the Season Opening in Soelden, what are your thoughts on the upcoming weekend?
Atle Skaardal: “Over the years Soelden has established itself as a really important date in the ski community. It not only marks the Opening of the FIS Alpine World Cup season but it is also a great opportunity for anyone passionate about skiing to see some spectacular winter pictures in the media and on TV already at the end of October. For the teams on the other hand, the timing of this race is a good opportunity to measure the work done over the summer while still giving them a chance to make some small adjustments in their training before the season goes full force after Levi.”
Guenter Hujara: “It’s important to start the season with a good race. In my 23 years as Chief Race Director I have done thousands of races and every event, every run has been the most important one, especially during the week it’s happening. Soelden will be the first race of my last season in this position and I plan to approach it with the same philosophy. We have winter conditions on the Rettenbach Glacier and everything is ready for a great event.”
What are you looking forward to the most in the 2013/14 season and what do you predict as the highlights?
Guenter Hujara: “This season the highlight will for sure be the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. It’s an event where all athletes have to go through a qualification process and the competition be selected even to participate is fierce especially for the bigger nations. I have no doubt that we will see a lot of great performances both before and during the Games, everyone wants to be in top shape. I am also really excited to see some new faces making a name for themselves this year, it’s something that happens every season when there is a big event.”
Atle Skaardal: “The World Cup itself is a big highlight for the racers. I know that on the ladies’ side there will be various skiers aiming for the Overall title. I am personally excited about the Nations Team Event in Innsbruck, I believe it will be a great event for both teams and spectators. I look forward to the races in Beaver Creek, where the ladies will have their first chance to test the new downhill slope which will be used at the Vail/Beaver Creek FIS World Championships in 2015. But let’s not forget the Olympics, of course that is going to be a highlight.”
Are there any particular challenges you think will arise?
Guenter Hujara: “The biggest challenge remains one we cannot influence – the weather! We always want to provide the best possible conditions, and they are once again going to be our priority. We try to educate people who work on the slopes, we provide all the tools for them to do the best they can under every circumstance but in the end the weather itself is something we cannot change.”
Atle Skaardal: “Safety has been our focus in the past and will remain a priority in the future. We work closely with the Organisers to ensure the best possible conditions, to have great slopes, but skiing remains a sport with higher injury risk, as there are a lot of changing factors in every race. We try to bring surprises to the minimum.
On the event side of things, the competition with other sports is tough and we keep working on improving our product and offering fans and spectators a well-rounded and enjoyable weekend experience.”
Last month the new FIS Alpine World Cup technical staff from 2014 was appointed. Are you looking forward to the season ahead before these changes?
Guenter Hujara: “Putting together the new team, which will replace myself, Helmut Schmalzl and Hans Pieren has been a process that started over a year and a half ago. We wanted to have a clear transition plan in place enough time in advance. The idea was also to give the opportunity to the new team to observe some events prior to stepping into their new roles, look over our shoulder during this season and learn from our experiences. We focused on creating a legacy that the new team could take over and adapt to the future needs of our sport. I believe the future is going to be even better than the past, that’s the goal.”
Atle Skaardal: I am really happy with how the team will look form the 2014/15 season on. Jan Tischhauser is highly motivated to have a great 21st and last season with the ladies’ team and we are confident that Jean-Philippe Vulliet is going to do a great job once he takes over. He is a very knowledgeable, modest and serious addition to our team and I am confident he will fit right in. The plan is for him to shadow Jan this season at most speed races, get to know the Organising Committees and learn the ins and outs of his new role.”