Looking to the future

There has been a fair amount of comments made by all parties regarding the state of British Alpine this summer. While both sides of the debate may say that they are in the ascendency, there have been a number of ideas that have come to the fore that might help Alpine as a whole build itself back up. …

Alpine ski racing needs to help itself. As one person commented recently, if you care about the sport, then get involved. With so few people salaried in the sporting governing bodies, volunteers make up the vast proportion of those people involved in running the sport.

Alpine is the largest part of the sports governed in the UK by British Ski & Snowboard and is the basis of the sport. When it was announced that Park and Pipe had been awarded UK Sport funding, there was a fear from some that there would be a backlash from Alpine yet many in Alpine have tried to allay this fear. Professor John Brewer and others have all said that all the disciplines need a strong Alpine sector for the others to profit from. Telemark admit that Alpine is their breading ground and a number of the Park & Pipe supporters, including Pat Sharples, came from an Alpine background.

Now that the Alpine side is suffering hardship in terms of a perceived from some, lack of leadership and support, what can be done? Professor Brewer explained to Racer Ready that he and the rest of those involved in the sport are welcome to ideas from the membership and those involved in the sport as to how to improve the sport.

Brewer explained that if people have ideas they should approach their discipline contact with ideas, how the ideas can be implemented and what they would need from the BSS to achieve this. In short, they are looking for the membership to get involved and want ideas.

With the news that Park and Pipe has been awarded UK Sport Funding, this is actually beneficial news for Alpine and the other non-funded disciplines like Telemark, Moguls, Ski Cross and Speed. With the money for Park and Pipe being ring-fenced, this means that money that was ear marked for Park and Pipe can now be used for other projects.

The big challenge Brewer acknowledges is to develop the successful fourteen to sixteen years into successful twenty five year olds. “We need a catalyst,” explained Brewer. With just one racer currently attracting national coverage, much could rest on the shoulders of Dave Ryding and his Slalom World Cup programme with this in mind.

Racer Ready asked Brewer and others involved at the management level what the BSS was doing for Alpine and what Alpine could do to help itself. While the second part can be answered in short with the simple answer “Get results,” it is how those results can be secured that many will be interested in.

Accusations of bias against Alpine have been ripe for some time. The results secured by Park and Pipe have not gone unnoticed by Alpine and with the programmes set up by Pat Sharples before Park and Pipe achieved Olympic status coming to fruition, these were the result of carefully laid out plans that were years in the making.

Alpine has long struggled with inter Home Nation rivalry and it is interesting to see how sports that were GB focused at the 2012 Olympics fared as opposed to those that were Home Nation based. Maybe this is time now for the BSS to have its remit changed to cover more than just the elite level. Some may argue that their track record has not been great so far with so few athletes making it to elite level so why give them more governance? Looking at the long term programmes of the athletes rather than just for those at the top end of the sport, could benefit the long term future of the sport.

There are changes in the pipeline Brewer assured Racer Ready and these are to the benefit of the sport as a whole. Brewer appreciates the enthusiasm that Malcolm Erskine has for the sport even if he was disappointed with the way the vote for the Chair evolved. The sport needs passion and no one can doubt the passion that Malcolm Erskine has for the sport.

Brewer told Racer Ready “nobody doubts his (Malcolm Erskine) passion or energy or enthusiasm.” He then added “we want alpine to do better.”

These are all positive feeds yet issues like communication and the fear many parents have that if they stand up and raise an issue, they will be persecuted, are still lingering. Change will not happen overnight yet some in Alpine are anxious for the ball to start rolling because at the moment they are not seeing any change happening at all.

Adrian Pery, the interim chair of the Alpine Speed and Telemark committee acknowledges Communication needs to be improved, both internally and externally.

The selection criteria for the forthcoming World Championships it has been noted are not as draconian as they were for the last Championships in Schladming or Olympic Games in Sochi. The criteria to qualify for a major Games need to be achievable while still being challenging has been recognised.

The feeling of an anti Alpine bias is constantly being denied.There is certainly a feeling that more BSS officials could attend British Title events to embrace their membership. This all costs time and money but would allow the membership to talk directly with those running the sport.

The future of the sport is in the hands of its membership and while ex racers are now being asked to get involved in the sport, openness and involvement needs to come from all sides.