Q: Hi Cleeves! The 13th anniversary of the Amateur Inter-Club Championships is coming up in March. Could you tell us what your initial thinking was when you started up the AICC back in 2008?
A: When I was the Chairman of the Kandahar Ski Club, I founded the AICC because I'd felt for a long time that Senior Racing available for Amateurs was restricted to just a handful of events and that there was a healthy level of interest to further develop Senior Amateur racing, particularly for teams rather than individuals.
Going back to the early days of Ski racing in the 1920's/30's, there was considerable contact between the Arlberg Clubs – the Alberg Kandahar was the forerunner of the World Cup founded just over 50 years ago - they would visit each other's clubs to race and broaden their experience and make new friends. Sadly, this practice had largely stopped because the world of Skiing became more professional. So, the idea of the Championships was to rebuild the network between the clubs.
Q: That's great! How has that all manifested over the years and into today?
A: The format has stayed the same from the start. We have a Giant Slalom and a Super Giant Slalom the following day and the points are equal for both. There are four in a team and the top three results count. We also have a fun Team Parallel Slalom which doesn't count towards the championship, and the teams selected from different clubs and age groups are incredibly even.
Initially we just had two age groups; 18 - 44 and 45+. Very soon, we realised there was a lot of interest from those over 60. So, we introduced a 60+ category and for this year, we now have a 70+ age category too, which is mixed gender.
Q: Wow, it appears there is lots of interest from everyone regardless of their age. Other than the addition of the 70+ age category, is there anything exciting about this year that we should be aware of?
A: I have always been keen from the beginning to have both Ladies and Men's teams taking part in the AICC, I was told there would be difficulty getting Ladies teams but amazingly we've had so many Ladies who want to race, it's been fantastic and now it's the Ladies Ski Club turn to host the event in Flaine, being a first for AICC in that resort.
I'm thrilled for the Ladies Ski Club – they were founded in 1923. It's the first time they have hosted it and it's going to be a really special event for them.
Q: We know that the Ladies Ski Club are familiar with Flaine and they host the British School Girls Races there which MPI recently attended. Are you glad that they have chosen Flaine?
A: For many reasons! Firstly, because we've only been to France once so far and secondly because it's where the Ladies Ski Club organise their biggest event of the year. I think it's a great resort that not many people go to very often and it's famous for great powder skiing.
Q: You seem pleased that the event will be in France for 2020. For those who don't know, where else have the Championships been hosted over the years and where would you like to see the AICC held?
A: We were in Murren the 1st and 2nd year as I didn't want to pass it on until I knew that we'd got the format right. Then, in it's third year, the AICC went to Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy, since then it's been to Switzerland 5 times, back to Italy, twice in Austria and only once in France, Meribel. I'm really working hard towards it going to Germany for the first time, I really hope we can get that going one day.
Q: Our fingers are crossed that we'll see the AICC in Germany very soon! What's your favourite part about the event?
A: I still love the racing, but my favourite part is the people. For me, it's always all about the people and seeing old friends, it's a reunion in many ways. I love the spirit and the sportsmanship in all the teams and the comradery, we have a lot of fun at the dinners – and afterwards!
Q: Could you tell us more about the AICC International organising committee?
A: The committee has at least one representative from each club and they decide where the championships will go and on the rules. There is then a contract between the AICC and the host club. So far, the AICC has been hosted annually in turn by the major clubs, though not every club has to host.
Q: Does the number of clubs taking part vary each year?
A: It does vary but normally there are around a dozen clubs taking part.
Q: What is the organisation achieving from doing the event each year?
A: The furtherance of Amateur Ski Racing, I think that any time you race you are improving your skiing – that goes for all of us, it doesn't matter who you are. The standard is high, we had an Olympic Champion attend a few years ago, and he came 12th in the Giant Slalom, which shows you the standard is high. It's great to get people with like-minded spirits from other countries and other clubs together. I am glad that it's not just a British event, I'm thrilled that it's European and for me that means a lot.
Q: Speaking of Europe, will the U.K's exit from the European Union have any affect on the future of the event?
A: No, I don't think so. I'd be very sad if it did, but it shouldn't have any bearing whatsoever.
Q: Thank you for your time today. Do you have any parting thoughts on the future of this event?
A: I'd love for it to stay in Europe. I would like it to go to Germany and possibly Spain. If there is a team from Central or Eastern Europe East that would be great! But to make it work it must stay within a certain Geographical area and I want the event to continue along the same lines that it has as we have been incredibly lucky that every weekend so far has been a great success and we have had so much fun doing it!
MPI Brokers are looking forward to this year's event and wish the best of luck to everyone taking part and to the Ladies Ski Club for what will undoubtedly be a very successful weekend.
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