Mountains, snow and sun - a fascination for all skiers

Dr Josef Zenhausen

Director of the Swiss Ski Federation

'Everyone skis, everyone skis, the whole nation skis!'

This is the refrain from one of the most popular Swiss folk songs which time and again rings out from ski huts and the sun terraces of mountain restaurants. That this refrain perfectly reflects the situation is revealed by the impressive number of around two million Swiss who ski.

Skiing is the number one national sport in Switzerland. The first ski schools were founded back in the 1930s. With the launch of the great races such as the Lauberhorn race in Wengen and the Inferno race on the Schilthorn (Bernese Oberland) skiing also became renowned beyond the national borders. Switzerland began to plan pistes and lifts as well as overnight facilities for non-local visitors. Winter sports centres sprang up in all the mountainous regions and these continuously underwent further developments in all respects and in line with tradition they cater for every taste in their range of facilities for winter tourists. Today Switzerland as a winter sports venue is characterised by superlative standards and great diversity. The Swiss tourism organisations offer the top range of packages for every taste and every budget, be it a five-start luxury hotel for high society or cosy holiday accommodation for the family.

The Swiss Ski Federation (SSF) - founded in Olten in 1904 - is, thanks to its members (currently over 120,000) the principal guarantor of this high standard in the sport of skiing in Switzerland. It lends its support in all the essential areas to the sensible development and promotion of Switzerland's number one national sport. Competitive sport rates highly within SSV. Over 200 athletes in the alpine, cross country, ski jump, Nordic combined and ski acrobatics squads spend over 150,000 days a year training and take part in over 350 competitions. As a result of medal awards, victories and outstanding achievements, they take the image of Switzerland as the leading country in winter sports all over the world.

The Swiss Ski Federation also promotes skiing as a popular sport with its top range of activities for recreational sportsmen and women. In addition to numerous fun ski races, the SSV also organises competitions for the whole family. It is also concerned with the prevention of accidents on pistes and endeavours to ensure that the ten FIS rules of conduct for skiers are respected and applied in terms of preventative measures.

Promoting skiing amongst young people is one of the really important objectives of the SSF. Since 1941 the SSF has been holding 'JUSKILA', the Swiss Youth Camp. To date, over 35,000 youngsters from all over Switzerland have spent a week's holiday free of charge in the Lenk region. For the SSF, extensive support of up and coming youngsters goes without saying. In addition, the SSF wants to give an understanding of the great diversity available in skiing to as many youngsters as possible and to give them the necessary basis.

The SSF is also aware that it will only be possible to continue skiing in all its great diversity in as unspoilt an environment as possible. The Swiss Ski Federation is also dependent on a strong tourist and winter sports industry. Therefore, everything possible will be done on a joint basis, in order to maintain the largest asset of Swiss tourism, the wonderful mountainous landscape, so that foreign tourists and the Swiss themselves, of course, can still spend many entertaining and relaxing hours in the Swiss Alps.