Under the slogan "The (guest) experience is everything", 1,500 ski and snowboard instructors from over 38 nations met for a week at the Interski Congress in Levi (Finland) at the end of March. In deepest winter conditions with morning temperatures below -25°C, Martin Dolezal, Johann Reisenberger and Stefan Wallner from the Snowsports Academy were on site and could take a lot of exciting input back to Austria. In an interview with Martin Obermayr, editor-in-chief of Insight Snowsports Magazine, they talk about their experiences in Levi.
Insight: In recent years, the Interski Congress has often been discussed in professional circles, of course also regarding its importance for winter sports. What do you think INTERSKI stands for?
Johann Reisenberger: "There is a reason why the congress is also called the 'Olympic Games of snow sports instructors'. Although the demo runs of the individual countries are not about who achieves the best time, and there are no medals, people naturally keep a close eye on each other - or rather on each other's legs. As a congress participant, you try to develop a feeling for the way skiing and snowboarding is done in the various countries. Moreover, you can observe how certain cultural aspects flow into the technique and the way of teaching."
Stefan Wallner: "With the Austrian demo team, for example, you could clearly see that emphasis was placed on a dynamic style that was coordinated and controlled down to the last detail. To the music of the Viennese waltz "An der schönen blauen Donau" by Johann Strauss, there were hardly any technical differences between the individual demonstrators. For other countries, the focus was much more on speed and joy - as was the case with the Swiss demo team, which also used the kicker placed on the slope for jumps and stunts. The team from Korea, on the other hand, showed very dynamic carving at high speed."
Besides comparing techniques, it is also about making friends and building a worldwide community of snow sports instructors who aim to share their fascination with the world.
Martin Dolezal: "Yes, absolutely. I was able to experience my first Interski Congress in 1991 in St. Anton am Arlberg. For me, apart from the technical and methodological discussions, it was always the people themselves who inspired me. Over the years, many friendships with participants from all continents have developed. We all love this sport and want to pass on its fascination to as many people as possible. The exciting thing is what a unifying effect the element of snow has and how cultural or other differences fade into the background - as only the shared experience counts".
From your shining faces you can still see what a memorable experience Interski 2023 must have been. What exactly made it so special?
Reisenberger: "For me, the Interski in Levi was the greatest congress I have attended so far. The main reason for this is that the distances between the hotel, the slopes and the lecture and seminar rooms were very short. This created a very relaxed atmosphere among the congress participants. You were independent in what you did and could easily attend all the workshops or lectures you wanted to.“
Dolezal: "Another advantage was that you constantly ran into other congress participants during the week. This gave us many opportunities for small talk, which resulted in very open and interesting conversation. That was not always the case at some other congresses."
After the withdrawal of Lech am Arlberg's application, no new applicant has been found yet for the next Interski 2027. What does that mean for the future?
Dolezal: "One has to find a ski resort as soon as possible that is willing to host the congress in 2027. There are already talks with various ski resorts to find a suitable solution. If no venue is found for the Interski in 2027, it would possibly be the end of this event, which has been a regular fixture since 1952. Nowadays, the importance of snow sports instructors for ski resorts and tourism is often underestimated. Congresses like the Interski contribute to get qualified staff for the ski schools in the future and to retain them thanks to the many opportunities offered by an international community. However, we are confident that one or more suitable applicants will be found by autumn."
What is your final summary of the Interski 2023?
Wallner: "I think I can speak on behalf of everyone: For us, the Interski was and is a compulsory event that absolutely must continue to exist in the future. It is always enriching to see how many ways there are to achieve goals. The Interski Congress demonstrates this every time. Even though digital media help to keep up to date and in contact, they do not replace personal contact between people. At the congress in Levi, many things were done right. We should take the positive aspects with us to ensure that the next Interski Congress will also be a great success."
Insight Snowsports thanks you for the interview.
President Snowsports Academy
COO Snowsports Academy
Techniqual Director Snowboard
CEO iFLOW GmbH
Photos and videos: Stefan Wallner