Tasting world of snow at Interski Congress
YONGPYUNG, SOUTH KOREA – Every four years, a select group of individuals assemble at a different winter venue to represent their country. They go to demonstrate just how far skiing and snowboarding have progressed in their home nations. But they also go to learn.This isn’t the Olympics, but the Interski Congress.From Jan. 27th to Feb. 3rd, ski and snowboard instructors from nearly 40 countries gathered at the Youngpyung resort in South Korea. Among the hundreds of attendees, Vail and Beaver Creek Ski Schools sent a large contingent.”What an honor to represent your country,” said Tim Stuart, a snowboard instructor from Australia who made his first trip to the event. “You can get a bit blase in that you’ve worked for so many year, in back-to-back seasons that you kind of forget what an honor it is.”If it didn’t hit the instructors when they got their invitations, it sure did once they suited up for their nations.”To put on a uniform and getting behind (your) flag – it makes you feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof,” Stuart said.All paths to the base
In the week-long meeting, the instructors from their respective countries made presentations on specific topics, in addition to on-mountain demonstrations and a visit to other Korean ski resorts.”It sort of expands your horizons,” said Delfina Darquier, who made her third appearance for Argentina. “Maybe you look at something you’ve been looking at for ages, but in a different way, and it was under your nose and you didn’t see it.”Tim Robertson, who represented Australia, noted that they are all teaching the same sport, but there quite a few small variations.”There’s a lot of similarities between all the countries,” Robertson said. “We are all teaching the same thing, but every country tweaks system a bit.”And it’s in picking up the cues from other nations that help the instructors better understand how to teach.”There is always something you bring back from the seminars,” Robertson said. “The Slovenians talked about teaching from the beginning on 90 centimeter skis and working up to 125’s.”Many countries focused their instruction based upon their customers.”The Japanese guys have 400,000 people retiring every year, so they have to turn to instruction for people who aren’t as coordinated or strong,” said Joaquin Darquier, part of Argentina’s contingent.
For the Australians, the topic was also about the skiers.”We spoke about that in Australia, the general trend is to have a goal – that’s the type of skier we deal with,” Robertson said. “A large part of our clientele skis only once, so we try and get them going as quickly as possible.”New venueWhile most of the Interski Congress meetings have been in traditional skiing nations, this year’s provided a much different venue.”Everyone was really happy to be in such a foreign country,” Delfina Darquier said. “When it’s in Europe, it’s a place where everyone gets to. It was nice to get away.”Relatively speaking, Korea is new to the ski industry, but has made giant strides.”Korea blew us away,” Robertson said. “They took on skiing and their resorts are very modern. My expectations were pretty low, but when I got there, it was very well organized and a huge industry.”
The host country showcased it’s teaching technique, which is similar to that of the Japanese, Darquier said.”They divide the body into two sides,” she said. “They use the whole right or left side to come around a corner. It’s something I hadn’t heard of before.”Of all the nations represented, the United States was absent this time, due to concerns of safety for the team considering the American political situation with North Korea.”It was a real bummer … they couldn’t go,” Stuart said. “All those guys work really hard as well and to be a part of their demonstration team.”The next Interski Congress will be in St. Anton, Austria in 2011.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.