EPISODE #13

'Ya-Ski-Da': How the Welsh made their mark on the Swiss slopes...

Ray Pritchard
  • Born in Wales
  • Switzerland
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The Welsh Alpine Championships was brought to Champéry/Les Crosets, Portes du Soleil over 12 years ago and has been going from strength to strength ever since! A combined effort of Robin Kellen (CEO Snowsports Wales), Christophe Berra (Hotel owner and ex Swiss ski team racer) and myself, Ray Pritchard (skier and local business man), who put together a programme which enabled great infrastructure (accommodation, race organisation and local support) to develop the race event into what it is today.

12 years later, the Welsh Championships are a rousing success with the inclusion of official FIS (Federation International de Ski) races. The event, which is also used as a training session for high level athletes and Olympic hopefuls, now draws up to 500 participants from 20 plus nations to the beautiful pistes of Champéry-Les Crosets in Switzerland. Over the years it has drawn participation from the US and Australian ski teams as well as all the major European Alpine countries. Participation has even included racers from the Welsh communities of Patagonia. 

It is more than a simple race championship, ‘Welsh Week’ or ‘Ya-Ski-Da’ as it is also know locally, has also developed to allow skiers and their families to enjoy a week of Welsh/Swiss camaraderie.

It is more than a simple race championship, ‘Welsh Week’ or ‘Ya-Ski-Da’ as it is also know locally, has also developed to allow skiers and their families to enjoy a week of Welsh/Swiss camaraderie. In addition to the ski racing, the week includes curling workshops, relaxing afternoons at the thermal baths and festive après-ski parties! The event takes place in the third week of January and is a truly unique sporting experience, where a beautiful Swiss alpine resort becomes Welsh for a week! 

 

The Championships are also supported by the British Embassy in Switzerland, with the active participation of Welshman Richard Ridout MBE (Deputy Head of Mission and General Consul). Famous Welshman and extreme athlete Richard Parks who has also been spotted opening the races. 

The Championships have succeeded at many levels; sports excellence (it is the only FIS international race in the region); they have been instrumental in the development of young Welsh ski athletes and cultural exchanges which have encouraged many new fans of Wales in the region and a great understanding of local traditions both Swiss and Welsh. And of course there is the friendship; these championships have become known as #happychamps due to the great ambiance and maybe the discovery by the race volunteers of Penderyn Welsh Whisky.

The championships have been instrumental in the development of young Welsh ski athletes and cultural exchanges which have encouraged many new fans of Wales in the region and a great understanding of local traditions both Swiss and Welsh.

Plans are now in place to develop a second Welsh event which will focus on the slopestyle ski disciplines, with preparation in place for a demonstration event in 2019. Development of similar relationships are planned between Wales and the the Region Dents du Midi based on Mountain Biking activities. 

The next edition of the Welsh Alpine ski Championships run from 22nd to 25th January 2019.

Click here to connect with Ray.

 

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