With the launch of the new Ski Ambassador’s programme being rolled out over the last two weeks, Chris Shelley took some time out during Ipswich’s Club National Ski Race to talk about his hopes for the future of the sport, as well as the progression and development of current and future ideas for dry slope racing.

“The launch at the Club National in Sunderland last weekend went really well, and similarly this weekend at Norwich it has been really well received. All the ambassadors selected to be part of the programme are proud to wear their tops and the uniform separates them a little bit from their clubs, and shows there is an England based recognition for these really high achieving people. It’s a new programme and we’re trying to build up recognition of the dry slope aspect of racing as it often gets overlooked. People achieve a lot within dry slope racing and I think in the past, we haven’t really recognised that. Hopefully the scheme allows us to rectify that and we hope to build on it in time. Almost everybody in England starts with dry slope racing – it’s the grass roots and provides a really important grounding for ski racing. But I’m pleased with the launch and the engagement of the ambassadors, and there’s been interest from other people, so the test of it will be if the younger racers are thinking they’d like to do that or wanting to know how they’d qualify for that.”

“We’re hoping the ambassadors can be role models – we chose the term ambassador so they can reach out to others and talk to them about the sport and how they got to where they did. We’re hoping they will come to school races and other events, even if they’re not racing, to help with prize giving and to talk to people there. The ambassadors have achieved something within the sport and their presence being noted at different races is what it’s all about. It’s about sustainability and providing awareness of the programme so other racers aspire to be part of it next year. A big part of Snowsport England’s remit is participation and the ambassador programme should help encourage and promote participation. It’s something to compete and aim for. You’ve got to be in the top three, so hopefully the person coming fourth mid-season is thinking ‘I want that place.’ At least that’s what we’re hoping anyway!”

“The summer race calendar is busy: there’s lots of racing. There’s regional races, club nationals and the GBR series alongside others, so I think it’s important for each racer to choose what they want to focus on. It’s obviously not possible to compete in every race, so we need to be clear with the calendar and different races. I’d love to hear people’s feedback about the summer programme, as it’s less established than the winter one so we can make sure that it makes sense for those participating.”

“One of the main parts of my job is to hear what the members want. The more programmes we launch, the more feedback we can get from members. There’s lots of clubs and participants, without them there’s no race so we really want to push forward with more people making the journey so they aren’t just racing their own region as it enhances that competitive element. It keeps them on their toes competitively and maintains participation. Rivalry is important within the sport – another reason we feel the ambassadors will help because people can challenge themselves – ‘oh he’s an ambassador, I want to beat him’ or ‘she’s an ambassador, I want a better time than her’ so we’re hoping it adds another dimension to the racing. However, Snowsport England isn’t just about slalom racing. It’s about freestyle, pipe and board, cross country, telemark, they’re all in our remit so I’m hoping to go to some of those events too. I’ve got the coaching conference coming up. Coaching is the bottleneck to participation because without coaches you can’t run a club and members can’t develop. Coaching is key because good coaches provide better development. But again, I want to reach out and see what the members have got to say.”

“Overall, I’m pleased with how the racing at Ipswich has gone. As it is a national race it’s been an interesting, challenging course as well as technical which I think is good as it rewards those who do a good course inspection and take their time to think about their route through the course.”

Chris’ email is: chris@snowsportengland.org.uk

Words: Ffyona Speed

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