FIS World Cup: In­side Look

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Peter Graves

Sounds like a life that puts one in a flashy, ex­clu­sive club, but if you think it's like life on the beach, you're dead wrong. This life comes com­plete with jet lag and time-zone changes, in­clud­ing stress­ful days and late nights. And all the while, one must main­tain a diplo­matic per­spec­tive when it comes to prob­lem-solv­ing. Af­ter last sea­son's suc­cess­ful Ski Tour Canada 2016, Sk­i­trax ex­am­ined the lives and work of a trio of In­ter­na­tional Ski Fed­er­a­tion (FIS) staff on the World Cup Tour. San­dra Spitz, Michal Lam­plot and Cana­dian Jeff El­lis are hard­work­ing and ded­i­cated, and to­gether with Pierre Mignerey, the Tour di­rec­tor who over­sees this group, they make the magic hap­pen.

Though the staff is not with­out their well-earned opin­ions, they of­ten hold a mostly egal­i­tar­ian point of view on mat­ters. And while they have very spe­cific job descriptions, they all pitch in to­gether to make the com­plex­i­ties of the World Cup hap­pen.

Thirty-seven-year-old San­dra Spitz was orig­i­nally from Schonach, Ger­many, but now works out of the FIS of­fice in Switzer­land. She first be­gan as a mem­ber of the Schonach Op­er­at­ing Com­mit­tee for the 2002 FIS World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships, and then moved to Ober­st­dorf, where she worked on the FIS World Nordic Cham­pi­onships. Fol­low­ing that, she turned to work at the FIS, first as the me­dia co­or­di­na­tor for cross-coun­try, and, since 2011, as the FIS event co­or­di­na­tor and the Tour de Ski co­or­di­na­tor. When asked why she loves her job, she com­mented, “I have the plea­sure to work to­gether with three great team­mates and with mo­ti­vated peo­ple from all dif­fer­ent na­tional ski as­so­ci­a­tions, the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tees, Tv-pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies and all the other stake­hold­ers from all over the world who share the pas­sion for ski­ing.”

Spitz's job has many func­tional ar­eas on the Tour, in­clud­ing be­ing the link to the host broad­caster at each venue and to the FIS Mar­ket­ing AG group. Her po­si­tion also calls for her to over­see such logistics as team travel and trans­porta­tion, ac­cred­i­ta­tion and a host of other mat­ters.

Michal Lam­plot, 33, who lives in Ri­cany, near Prague, Czech Repub­lic, works closely with the me­dia in his post as the me­dia and project co­ordi- na­tor for cross-coun­try. His love and mo­ti­va­tion for the sport come from his deep fam­ily ties and the good for­tune of be­ing brought up in a ski­ing fam­ily in Nove Mesto na Mo­rave.

He has been in­volved in the sport since child­hood, where, in Nove Mesto na Mo­rave, his grand­fa­ther was the chief of course of the World Cups hosted there in the 1980's and 1990's. His fa­ther was also deeply in­volved in the sport as well. You can feel the pas­sion when Lam­plot speaks about his job, not­ing, “I think I love ev­ery as­pect of my job. I love the sport. I love the chance to travel and see the world and be in some of the most beau­ti­ful re­sorts. But, most im­por­tantly, what makes my job so spe­cial is the re­ally great team we have. Ev­ery sea­son is the best ever with Pierre, Jeff and San­dra. It's great fun and amaz­ing to work to­gether.”

Lam­plot knows that co­or­di­nat­ing so many vast mov­ing parts is no easy task. “The World Cup is a very com­plex event, with thou­sands of things that need to work to­gether. When you watch a race on TV, you don't re­al­ize the amount of work that has to be done be­fore,” Lam­plot says. “We are very lucky to work with very mo­ti­vated and en­thu­si­as­tic or­ga­niz­ers who of­ten do al­most im­pos­si­ble things to se­cure a World Cup. We have very strong mar­ket­ing part­ners, TV pro­duc­ers, and there is a very pro­fes­sional and per­fectly work­ing data and timing team. It is a re­ally unique ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with such a big group of pro­fes­sion­als.” Lam­plot gained much valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence when he served as a sport man­ager for the FIS Nordic World Cham­pi­onships in 2009 in Liberec, Czech Repub­lic.

In his job as the me­dia co­or­di­na­tor for the World Cup, he serves as a li­ai­son be­tween the ath­letes and the me­dia, and he helps or­ga­niz­ers pre­pare for their events by cast­ing an eye to­ward lo­cat­ing the best work­ing con­di­tions for the pho­tog­ra­phers, TV, print and on­line jour­nal­ists alike. He wants to make them happy. Lam­plot of­fered that the famed mixed-zone area where fin­ish­ing ath­letes meet jour­nal­ists im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing a race re­quires a good deal of planning: “Jeff and I work a lot in the fin­ish area, and the mixed zone is where we are help­ing ath­letes with af­ter-ther­ace pro­ce­dures like in­ter­views. Last but not least, I go to the press room, where I con­duct the press con­fer­ences af­ter ev­ery World Cup com­pe­ti­tion.”

The third mem­ber of the team is Cana­dian-born Jeff El­lis, 37, who lives

in An­chor­age, Alaska and is the hus­band of US Ski Team star Kikkan Ran­dall. Be­fore join­ing the World Cup Tour, El­lis worked as a phys­io­ther­apy tech­ni­cian at An­chor­age Frac­ture and Ortho­pe­dic Clinic and did a stint as a jour­nal­ist for Sk­i­Trax. Now, his spe­cialty on the Tour is serv­ing as FIS cross-coun­try me­dia co­or­di­na­tor as­sis­tant, a job that he not only loves, but also one at which he is bril­liant. His pri­mary role is to cre­ate and man­age con­tent on FIS'S Face­book, In­sta­gram and Twitter ac­counts, as well as FIS'S web­site dur­ing the sea­son. Cur­rently, he is on con­tract for a five-month pe­riod in sea­son.

His role has evolved over the past four years to in­clude the widely in­ter­est­ing and en­ter­tain­ing video pack­ages dubbed In­side the Fence. The pro­grams fea­ture a dif­fer­ent story and are well pro­duced, some­times se­ri­ous, and at times, witty. El­lis has scored a home run with these fea­tures, and so has the FIS.

It's a near-ideal sit­u­a­tion for El­lis and Ran­dall, who not long ago wel­comed their first child. “I love the po­si­tion,” El­lis noted. “It's so great to see my wife in the win­ter, as she is of­ten gone from Novem­ber to the end of March. With this job, I get to fol­low the same Tour that she is on for that time pe­riod. Also, it's been just great to work with my fel­low FIS col­leagues and all of our part­ners, or­ga­niz­ers, TV pro­duc­ers, pro­duc­tion teams and many oth­ers.”

Week af­ter week, this group is be­hind the scenes en­sur­ing that block­buster races hap­pen and are shown to the world. They don't do it for glory; they do it for the love of the sport and their fans around the world. Bravo.

(above l-r) Who's on first? San­dra Spitz, Michal Lam­plot and Pierre Mignerey on the case at the in­au­gu­ral Ski Tour Canada.

(fac­ing) Jeff El­lis (l) and Michal Lam­plot all smiles and ready for ac­tion.

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