The death while competing of Canadian Ski Cross athlete Nik Zoricic was front and foremost at the second annual Ski Racing Safety Summit in Calgary this week.
The summit brought together leading experts from the Canadian ski community and included a special focus on improving safety in ski cross, and was held Tuesday and Wednesday at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
Among actions taken was the appointment of Canada’s FIS technical delegate commissioner Ted Savage as the National Safety Consultant. Savage is charged with developing a safety strategy and coordinate safety initiatives in alpine, para-alpine and ski cross.
“We can’t ignore our responsibilities in terms of responding to the obvious challenges of recent events,” Savage said. “We need to build on Canada’s ability to influence the rest of the world in skiing. We’ve always been leaders in both performance and event execution. Safety is first and foremost a result of partnership with all stakeholders.”
Swiss police conducted an investigation into Nik’s death following the incident in Grindelwald March 10. The results of the investigation have not yet been released.
An active attendee was Predag “Bebe” Zoricic, Nik’s father and a long time ski coach. “My hope was to raise awareness about safety in ski cross – and that happened at the summit – and to present a united front to push for change internationally for athlete safety,” Bebe said. “Canada will lead by example and other nations will follow. If changes are applied it will reassure parents, supporters and the ski community that ski cross is safe and is well on the way to be a leading ski sport. On a personal note, these changes would bring peace to our family and I’m sure Nik would be happy to see these changes.”
Among changes seen on the horizon was the appointment of Savage and the directives to:
1 Continue to integrate ski cross into the alpine club structure.
2 Continue to build officials’ development, coaching education, terrain management and age-appropriate athlete development pathway protocols.
3 Implement a pathway protocol for the safe integration of ski cross racing skills.
4 Embrace ski cross as a discipline of alpine skiing.
5 Commit to hosting an annual Ski Racing Safety Summit.
6 Update Alpine Canada’s mission statement to include responsibility for technical and safety leadership.
6 Lobby FIS for greater resources in course building and testing at the World Cup level prior to teams arriving at races. The aim is to ensure course building and safety are of the highest standard.
7 Call on FIS to draw from decades of alpine expertise in safety and event execution and develop an athlete-centered approach to events.
Alpine Canada President Max Gartner said, “The safety of our athletes is our No. 1 priority and one of the key recommendations to come out of the second annual Ski Racing Safety Summit was the need to be a leader in safety both domestically and on the world stage. Safety is not just a tag line for us – we intend to walk the talk and make it part of our DNA. Ted’s appointment will help us to develop a safety strategy and encourage everyone involved in ski racing, from athletes to course builders and race organizers, to work together to make our sports and disciplines safer.”
Dave Ellis, Alpine Canada’s ski cross athletic director, said Canada has developed a reputation as a world leader in ski cross safety at the domestic level where there is a focus on developing skills in a safe environment. He said it’s important to keep the momentum going.
“One of the central reasons for integrating ski cross with alpine in 2010 was to capitalize on the strength of the system – solid officials, volunteers and coaching networks,” said Ellis, of Canada Ski Cross falling under Alpine Canada’s jurisdiction. “The alpine skill-set is the foundation for ski cross so it’s natural to have the ski cross discipline within the alpine system domestically.”
Over 60 representatives from the Canadian ski community attended the Safety Summit. Speakers included Savage, Helmuth Schmalzl, who works on the alpine World Cup tour as the FIS race director for men’s speed events and Shawn Letton of ParkScapers, a Canada-wide program to help groomer operators and terrain-park staff refine their skills.
A full report on the summit, including a detailed list of recommendations, will be developed in the coming weeks and communicated with stakeholders.
photo from Alpine Canada
Cover photo from Gepa