In the course of recent seasons, an average of 7'000 international ski competitions, including 330 FIS World Cup events were staged per year, in addition to several thousand national competitions – record numbers of which FIS is justifiably very proud.
Across all our disciplines, the magnificent FIS World Championships for the most part enjoy excellent conditions in the northern hemisphere. More pleasing still are the signs of interest in skiing among the younger generation, which gives us good cause to regard this year as a year of real progress. On the other side of the coin, we have stagnating snowboard and ski equipment sales; lower average viewing figures for the events that were broadcast on TV; long-term climatic changes and the fear of what this will bring; declining numbers of leisure skiers at grassroots level; and in many places a slowdown in the development of resorts.
While there is no real reason for panic, we do need to recognise that the next few years will be challenging, and we need adapt in order to halt and reverse the current negative trends.
One of the initiatives that will play a key part in safeguarding the future of our sport is surely the FIS Bring Children to the Snow project, which is now enjoying more and more success and recognition on a global level. On FIS World Snow Day 2017 mid-January, more than 450 different initiatives were organised in 46 countries.
And we should also mention the modifications and permanent improvements that have been made to the competition formats across our various disciplines. These are helping our sport to engage with the younger generation through a variety of major events, and not just high-level sporting competitions but also those which are focused on mass participation, true festivals of skiing where the public have the opportunity to try the sport out for themselves.
In the future, our sport cannot and must not be solely focused on organising commercially successful competitions at the elite level; we need to be prioritising efforts to promote widespread participation at all levels.
FIS is not the only organisation with objectives and plans along these lines. This is an area that all, or at least almost all, sports – and not just Olympic ones – are currently having to address. We are witnessing an extremely hard fought struggle to gain maximum leverage from sport, and participation in sport, whether it is in order to raise public interest levels or – and this is more common – for commercial and political gain.
FIS will be monitoring these developments closely and actively; we will not miss any opportunities, and will address head on those problems that we cannot afford to ignore.