Meet and Greet with Alpine Race Directors

04 June 2014 17:48
New men's Chief Race Director Markus Waldner
New men's Chief Race Director Markus Waldner -
Agence Zoom

While at Congress, FIS took the opportunity to interview the Men’s and Ladies’ Chief Race Directors Markus Waldner – in his new role - and Atle Skaardal, as well as Guenter Hujara who has retired as Men’s Chief Race Director after the 2013/14 season and taken on a role as FIS Alpine Technical Expert.

Markus, this is your first “official” appearance in your new role. How have the first days been for you in Barcelona?

Markus Waldner: This is indeed the first time officially in my new role, taking over Guenter Hujara’s position as Chief Men’s Race Director and all the work that such role brings at an event like the Congress. This is a great, but big, new challenge so it’s good this is far from my first Congress and I know my way around. I have had many meetings with our partners, various discussions with our Organising Committees and generally I am trying to close any open questions so we can have a good base for next season. Also, with my colleagues we have been working on finalising the details for the highlight of next season, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek.

Guenter and Atle, a few months have gone by since the end of the season. What are your impressions?

Guenter Hujara: Last season was very challenging due to the many weather changes, the unusually warm temperatures where we had very few races in temperatures below 0. When the weather was not on our side, having races up to World Cup standard was not easy but with the tremendous effort by the Organising Committees and other parties involved we could mostly handle the challenges successfully. I am proud that at the end of the season we were able to complete all originally scheduled events.

Atle Skaardal: I have to say it has been a great season, with the Olympic Winter Games and several classic races in the calendar. Also, having many titles not secured until the very last races in Lenzerheide made it very exciting. From the conditions point of view, after the New Year we had a challenging season due to some very unstable weather. We were forced to deal with many postponements and last minute changes to the calendar, which was certainly not very easy. Organising Committees, racers and teams, technical personnel, they all had to be quick at changing their travel programmes and adapting to the changes.

What about the biggest challenges?

Atle Skaardal: We had enough challenges with the weather, but this year our team also had to face some personal issues and this created a very specific situation where we needed to find solutions. After last season Jan Tischhauser was due to officially retire but unfortunately he was unable to be part of our group after October 2013 due to illness. So his final winter as FIS Race Director was far from what we all wished for, I want to express my appreciation for all the work he has done over the years and wish him all best in retirement. After stepping in already this season, Jean-Philippe “Pilu” Vulliet will be now a fulltime member of the team and I am confident he will be able to fill Jan’s position with great knowledge and passion. I am very grateful for the support we got from the FIS management and our colleagues on both the ladies’ and men’s tour this past season. Without them, it would have been hard to deliver such a good season.

The Congress in Barcelona is a great opportunity to make changes where and if necessary. Anything big in store?

Atle Skaardal: There are various details, relevant to several areas of the sport. The main topic is as usual the calendars, but also presenting some new Organisers and Candidates for future World Cup races. We are discussing proposals for new formats and expanding some discussions around the parallel events. As always some precisions and smaller rule changes are taking place but nothing of major impact. I am also eager to find out the World Championships Organiser for 2019 and witness the re-election of the President.

What would you describe as your strategy for next year?

Markus Waldner: We will try to keep the high quality Guenter and the team built in the past over 20 years. It will be important to keep the standards high, support our Organising Committees and at the same time look for some new challenges. We are observing what the market is requesting, listening to requests from TV and working on proposing some new formats as the result of those discussions. I’m definitely looking forward to all the new challenges!

Guenter, this has been your last year as Chief Race Director what will you miss the most and what are you looking forward to in the future?

Guenter Hujara: The team, all my colleagues and friends with whom I built close relationships over the years. I’ll certainly miss working with OCs and National Ski Associations in a very open way and finding solutions for future events. That’s what I keep in good memory. I’ll also miss working closely with the athletes, these 23 years they were my focus, their safety and giving them most fair conditions possible. I’ll be missing the moments where I saw that they are happy with what has been prepared for them.

I am now taking on the position as Alpine Technical Expert and I will be dealing mostly with the Olympic Winter GamesOrganisers in PyeongChang and potential candidates for FIS World Championships. I will be helping them prepare for the big events they plan on hosting. I will also focus on other projects that the Race Directors or FIS Management send my way, such as injury prevention work which is very important for our sport.