FIS World Cup: Inside Look
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.