All photos by Steve Cuff
Story by Tess Cook
More than just a school snow sports competition, the Interschools Championships is a phenomenon that is getting kids, families and entire schools involved in snow sports in Australia.
Close to 10,000 competitors will pass through the starting gates of the various events in the 2009 regional, state and national Interschools Championships – making it the largest event by competitor number in the Southern Hemisphere – and each one will be an enthusiastic young skier or snowboarder, supported by mum, dad, teachers and friends.
“It (the Interschools) has a big impact in introducing a new generation of people to snow sports,” says Ross Taylor, Manager Ski and Snowboard School at Mt Buller, “Many individuals take race lessons and improve their level of skiing and riding… These skills and the passion for the sport tend to stay with them for life,” he says.
“The Interschools is absolutely critical to Australian snow sports,” says General Manager of School Snowsports, organisers of the Victorian and Australian Interschools, Robert Osborne. “It’s an entry point for so many kids getting involved (in snow sports),” he says.
The all-inclusive ethos – any school can enter a team or individual in the regional championships, numbers are not limited and all abilities are welcome – is breeding a new generation of committed snow enthusiasts and getting families and whole school communities to the snowfields regularly says Osborne. “The school-aged competitors usually come with a parent, a teacher or a grandparent, which provides huge flow-on benefits for the resort,” he says.
“A lot of families come to the snow, or come more frequently, because of Interschools,” says Operations Manager of the NSW Interschools Championships Wendy Pinkerton. “It’s grass-roots, it’s there for everyone. The team format helps with inclusion,” she says
Osborne says it’s less about who wins and more about the confidence and enjoyment the kids gain from participating together as a team. “I’ve thought we could drop the ‘championship’ name and just call it the Interschools Fun Week,” he says.
Keeping it fun means keeping it current, the addition of snowboarding, the ‘ridercross’ and ‘skiercross’ in the past few years has been an organic response to the new ways kids enjoy the alpine environment says Osborne. The average kid competes in two events, says Pinkerton, “but many do them all,” she says.
While Manager of Thredbo Snow Sports School, Adam Hosie, appreciates the importance of Interschools in promoting kids enjoying the alpine environment he knows the Snows Sports School also benefits, and not just from the business generated by coaching requests he says, “We have kids from division one (years 11 and 12) turning up the next year in the hiring clinic,” he says, “we’re keen to encourage all interschools racers to consider having a go at teaching skiing,” he says.
Instructing, racing at a higher level or simply skiing or boarding regularly, the Interschools seems to build both breadth and depth for Australian snow sports. In Victoria, where the Interschools is fifty years old, Osborne is seeing parents and grandparents on the sidelines who were themselves once competitors.
That being said, the Interschools also provides opportunities for kids who are excelling.
The NSW Interschools introduced two programs to identify kids with potential. The “Athletes of the Future” NSW Interschools Moguls Development Camp selects 20 competitors from the moguls regional events to take part in a development camp run in conjunction with the NSW Institute of Sport and Perisher Resort. The inaugural camp in 2008 had great feedback says Pinkerton.
The Alpine Rising Star Awards selects six children in from divisions three, four and five (year eight and below) for further race training with the Thredbo Ski Racing Club and the chance to compete on the junior racing circuit.
Kids from every state barring the Northern Territory will be on the slopes for the first round of championships throughout July, culminating with the Australian Interschools Snowsports Championships, this year hosted by Falls Creek. Says Marketing Manager of Falls Creek Ski Lifts Nick Noble, “the major benefits of hosting an event such as the Australian Interschools are the opportunities our resort receives to showcase ourselves to snow enthusiastic families from all around the country.”
Competitors, parents, schools, families and resorts, it seems everyone’s a winner in the Interschools.
The 2009 Subaru Australian Interschools SnowSports Championships will be held at Falls Creek from Wednesday 9th to Sunday 13th September.
For more info about the Interschools and calendar of events go to: