Five-months have now passed since Interski 2019 in Pamporovo, Bulgaria. This blog post, the first of two reflecting on the congress, looks at Ireland's astonishing achievements, at Interski 2019, and reveals how this represented the realisation of a personal goal.
The journey begins
In 1999 Helen Casey and I attended the Interski Congress in Beitostolen, Norway. To say that I was green in terms of what it was all about is somewhat of an understatement! However, it was a fantastic learning curve and one which prompted me to get fully involved with developing a pathway for training and certifying snowsport instructors in Ireland. It also sowed the seed of a dream that perhaps one day we (Ireland) could not just attend a congress, as observers, but actually fully participate and have something to share with other nations on and off snow. I knew that such a dream would take time to become a reality and that if it was going to happen I would need to find others who shared my passion (or perhaps obsession)!
The Irish Interski Team is born
It did, indeed, take time before we were ready to pursue the goal and in Pete Gillespie I had found a friend and colleague who shared my vision. In the build up to Interski 2011 in St. Anton, Austria the Irish Interski Team was born with its primary goal being to enable Ireland to attend Interski Congresses and represent Irish Snowsports and its key organisations involved with teaching and coaching: The Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI), Snowsports Association of Ireland (SAI) and the Ski Club of Ireland (SCI). Following the 2011 congress it was decided that if 'we' were ever to succeed in terms of 'full participation' e.g., lectures, on-snow workshops, demonstration team and a sizeable delegation, then the only way forward was for everyone involved to pay their own way and give up their own time. This resulted in a team of six attending the 2015 congress in Ushuaia, Argentina and delivering an on-snow workshop, two small off snow lectures and skiing at the opening and closing ceremonies. This was a major step towards the dream of full participation. It also resulted in greater awareness and recognition of Irish certified snowsport instructors which in turn assisted the growth of IASI.
Ireland @ Interski 2019
The build up
While the main focus of this blog post is on what Ireland achieved at Interski 2019 none of it would have been possible had we not increased our level of preparation and professional approach. A total of six events/training camps were held starting with the selection event in January 2018 and concluding with the training camp just prior to the congress itself. For those who attended it was a massive commitment and hats off to those who were at ALL of them!
Right from the opening ceremony it was clear that we had some of the best support of any nation attending. This was a combination of IASI members who had joined the delegation, the fact that Pamporovo is a very popular destination for Irish snowsport enthusiasts and that the opening coincided with St. Patrick's Day!!
The full demo team of 10 Alpine and 2 Telemark skiers performed at opening ceremony and this set up our participation beautifully for the week that followed.
Wednesday the 20th of March 2019
This is a day that will live long in my memory. It was an incredibly busy day for the whole team. The day began with the 'technical demos' and 6 of the alpine team were involved in these and they really showcased our technical philosophy of being free to ski and how we use drills as part of the process of developing skill.
Our on-snow workshops were incredibly well attended by all of the other nations and the delivery team did a fantastic job conveying our main message; 'How You Learn is How You Live' and our philosophy of Learn it, Love it, Live it. We showed how we develop skills through our skills model while looking after the well-being of the individual through our innovative "Diamond Model of Skill Acquisition".
And our off-snow lecture "Flowing with Mindfulness" showed how we are using the latest research to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of training and certifying snowsport instructors. Approximately 90 delegates attended our lecture! While it was personally nerve racking and challenging presenting to such a group of distinguished snowsport professionals it was a real honour and beautifully rounded off what was perhaps my best ever day as a snowsport professional.
A detailed brochure is available online explaining everything that we delivered on and off snow. Check it out here.
What others said
Positive feedback from other nations is very gratifying especially when it comes from those who have witnessed, first hand, Ireland's progress from 2011 to 2019. Here are a few quotes that we received:
"What I noticed most of all about team Ireland this time, in comparison to Argentina, was how professional you all were as a team. Last time it was simply great to see Ireland at Interski, this time you looked like a full comprehensive team & presented & contributed in everything like you were a very experienced team who had been to many Interski’s."
Andrew Rae, Australia/APSI
"You have done a good job getting your team ready for the demonstration component. The level of skiing was solid and all demonstrators seem uniform in their understanding of the technique you are showcasing. I look forward to seeing the growth again in 4 years. Well done, keep up the good work and congrats again on a great showing at Interski."
Warren Jobbitt, Canada/CSIA-AMSC
"It was great to see Ireland at Interski and it was clear that they took the event seriously and came armed with fabulous content. I was especially impressed with their demos as the accuracy and precision of their skiing was a treat to watch. I feel their association has earned an important place in the snowsports world and I’m excited to see them continue to work to make the industry a better place!"
Jeb Boyd, USA/PSIA-AASI
For me personally, Interski 2019 was a major goal achieved and having been head of delegation for Ireland at the past three congresses it is now time for others to lead the way. However, I am confident that we have fantastic, energetic and passionate people in place ready to begin the next chapter. And I am especially looking forward to playing a part at the next congress in 2023 in Levi with a bit less pressure and responsibility.
Stay tuned for part two of 'reflections of Interski 2019' where Shona will reveal her top take aways from the congress in terms of what we learned from other nations.
And a massive shout out to the whole delegation from Ireland who all contributed to our biggest and best ever showing at a World Interski Congress.