By Colin Saravanamuttoo, President and CEO (colin@skipatrol.ca)

 

I’m happy to share the attached report from the 21st FIPS Congress (Féderation internationale des patrouilleurs du ski) in Sochi, Russia. I was proud to represent the Canadian Ski Patrol at this gathering of peer ski patrol organizations from around the world.

Following a highly successful 2016 FIPS congress in Italy, with record-breaking attendance from Canada, the bar and expectations were set high. Given the current geopolitical environment not to mention the additional transportation and visa costs for travel to Russia, we anticipated numbers would be lower. That was indeed the case with only three participants from Canada. However the reduced Canadian numbers were partly countered by higher numbers from European patrolling countries. In total, 17 countries were represented by approximately 80 patrollers.

Key conference themes were pain management and avalanche control. The focus on non-analgesic treatment of pain was particularly relevant to the work of the Canadian Ski Patrol. I would encourage CSP members to review the conference materials at this location. Any CSP member can sign up on the FIPS website and download specific congress reports.

One interesting session was from the Korean Ski Patrol. With the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics just weeks away, the team was preparing to support a variety of alpine events. I was able to speak to the racer down protocol used by the World Cup patrol team at Lake Louise and subsequently shared background information on the protocol with the Korean attendees. The head of the Korean delegation was most appreciative to receive this information.

I delivered an update on the Canadian Ski Patrol, sharing information about our continuing journey of renewal. There was strong interest in our efforts to be a modern, professional and relevant partner to the snow industry and beyond. The topic was relevant to patrols from around the world as they strive to attract new people to the industry. While most of the European countries rely exclusively on paid patrols, the issue of relevance was completely applicable to their worlds as well. There were a number of questions about how we have created a more relevant organization and experience. The Canadian Ski Patrol is clearly viewed as a leader in the international patrolling community.

The conference was the usual combination of valuable patroller learning sessions (both in-class and on-snow), skiing and social activities. The event was held at the Rosa Khutor mountain resort, site of the alpine events at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. It was quite unique to be at a resort where ALL the infrastructure was brand new (nothing more than five years old). As promised by the FIPS-Sochi conference organizers in their bid proposal two years ago, the skiing was world class. Interestingly, many attendees had heard the comments from western journalists that the facilities would struggle to attract guests after the Olympics and that they were not financially sustainable. In actual fact, the resort was completely full, almost exclusively with Russian tourists. It was explained to us that a whole new ski culture has been created in Russia, and plans are in the works to double the mountain capacity in the next few years. It is a remarkable story.

At the FIPS board meeting, I proposed that we recognize Mark Labow, Canadian Ski Patrol life member no. 16 for his founding role in FIPS. I moved that he be recognized as honorary chair of the FIPS board and was pleased that this was accepted. This was a fitting testament to Mark’s role in creating the international fraternity. (Note: Sadly Mark has since passed away, but he was very happy to be recognized in this way.)

One of the key elements of any FIPS Congress is to select the site for the next event. In this case, the FIPS board selected the resort of Bariloche, Argentina to be the next host. Moving the event to the southern hemisphere requires a different timing, so the congress will take place in September 2019, just 18 months after the Sochi congress.

There is great excitement to take the event to South America and we anticipate it will be a memorable congress. I would strongly encourage members of the Canadian Ski Patrol to consider attending. Being part of the international ski patrol fraternity is a gift – the camaraderie, learning and skiing are all first rate. Talk with other CSP members who have attended past FIPS events and the response will likely be the same: it is something to be experienced.

FIPS 2018 Congress Report and 2019 Congress Location