Heading into his 12th year as chief race director of the women’s circuit, Atle Skaardal knows the business of World Cup racing and is always working improve standards on the circuit. The FIS communications staff chatted with Skaardal about the work he and his team have been focused on going into next season, which will be highlighted by the 2017 World Championships in St. Moritz.
What were last season’s highlights from your point of view?
I think it was a very challenging season with a lot of changes to the original programs, but the opening in Soelden is always a big highlight for us. Also, new organizers we had in the calendar last year did a great job, both in Andorra and in Slovakia. We are looking forward to going back to these sites in the future. In general, it was also spectacular to see the racing itself and the fight for the World Cup trophies, which was more open last season than it has been in years.
The ladies’ World Cup circuit has four new venues this season: Killington, U.S.; Kronplatz, Italy; Jeongseon, South Korea; and Squaw Valley, U.S. What are the challenges with these new organizers?
The challenge is to try to communicate the expectations for a World Cup event, and have the organizers understand what we expect and why we want it. But most of these new organizers are already in a very active ski environment and have organized races on different levels before. The huge advantage is that they have a lot of motivation; they want to make a difference, and give the calendar a fresh and creative image. So, we often experience extremely good and well-organized races and events with these new organizers.
Can you tell us about the opportunity to go to new areas like the East Coast of the U.S. and Asia?
It’s very important for us. Asia is not very well developed as a ski market yet, and we’ve not raced there in the past, so this will be very interesting for us. Following up on the great success of the men last year, I think we’ll be well taken care of in South Korea and we’ll have great races. Killington is also a very interesting site for us on the East Coast of the U.S. – very close to Boston, they have a very active race environment in this area of the country. I think a lot of stakeholders in the sport appreciate and welcome that we’ll have a tour stop on the East Coast.
The 2017 World Championships will take place in St. Moritz, a traditional World Cup site. The Finals were very successful. Is there still any room for improvement?
I think the FIS Inspection Group agreed on most things to organize and prepare ahead of the 2017 World Championships. Of course, this year we used the men’s downhill course, but we’ve been able to ski on the ladies’ course in the past. We worked close with the organizers and with the TV directors to find the best course set for the downhill. It will be interesting also because it’s the first World Championship with qualification runs for the ladies. I think we are going a very good way, and St. Moritz has been upfront the whole time. They can welcome us anytime. They are ready.
What’s your opinion on the new starting order for the speed disciplines?
I see a certain new flair to the whole thing. It’s very interesting for the athletes to be able to pick a number instead of being drawn; I think they will appreciate that. We will now see a trend that the best racers start earlier in speed events than we have been used to in the past years, and it will be interesting to follow them next season and see how it will impact the whole system for us. I’m very excited to see how it goes; it’s good that we agreed on something. I’m confident that it will be very well received.
Release courtesy of FIS