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Kids' ski project gets off to a flying start

One skier from Sattel shows off his ski pass

(swissinfo.ch)

The development of Swiss skiing has received a much-needed shot in the arm with the launch of a cheap ski card for children.

Project organisers in the central Swiss ski resort of Sattel hope to foster young talent and ultimately help improve Switzerland's skiing fortunes after years in the doldrums.

The "Free Snow Sattel" project is the brainchild of Osi Inglin, the coach of the Women's National ski team, and a local resident.

Swiss ski team member Nadia Styger, who started her career at Sattel Ski Club, is a patron of the project.

This is a first of its kind in Switzerland and may signal that things are looking up in Swiss skiing.

All of Sattel's 240 children, bar one, have taken up the Free Snow Sattel ski card. The one who didn't already has a season pass in another resort.

A normal ski season pass costs SFr220 ($168). With Free Snow Sattel, local school kids up to age 16 can buy a season ski pass for only SFr10.

Enthusiasm

Adolf Lüönd, president of the local community, is very enthusiastic about the project and has supported it from the beginning.

"I've known Osi for years. He grew up here. When he came to me last spring and asked me if we could do this, I said yes."

"There's no organisation that did this. It was Osi who did it. It should be called 'Project Osi'."

Since then it has taken only months for the project to get going and already other communities have expressed interest in the programme.

"Of course if (other communities) want to participate in this project they have to bring some financial support," Lüönd says.

Parents have always been keen for their children to go skiing. The problem was it's very expensive for parents to send their kids skiing three or four days a week, Lüönd explains. This is why the project is such a hit.

"This is a first in Switzerland," says Petra Suter, co-organiser of the project. "Not only can the kids come for a very cheap price but this is the only place they can come without their teacher. So they can come any time, during or after school."

Joint effort

One surprising facet of this whole programme is how so many organisations came together so quickly to support it and make it happen; the school, the local community, the ski club and the canton.

The project will cost SFr100,000 over five years. The local authority is footing 25 per cent of the funding, with the rest coming from canton Schwyz and sponsors.

Both Lüönd and Suter say they don't want federal assistance because of the added bureaucracy that would come with it.

What about the future? At the moment everyone is focusing on the current project and no one wants to think about five years from now. Yet additional programmes are planned, covering areas such as fitness and coaching.

Suter is all too aware that Switzerland has done very poorly in international terms in recent years. "We only got one bronze as the last Olympics."

Is the dream of this project that Switzerland will do much better at the Olympics and World Cup in the future?

"Of course!" says Suter.

swissinfo, Chris Wilkins in Sattel

In brief

The cheap ski card for children central just launched in the central Swiss ski resort of Sattel is the first of its kind in Switzerland.

Almost all of Sattel's 240 children have taken up the Free Snow Sattel ski card.

With the card, local school children up to age 16 can buy a season ski pass for only SFr10, instead of the normal price of SFr220.

The project, which aims to foster young skiing talent, will cost SFr100,000 over five years.

The local authority is providing 25 per cent of the funding, with the rest coming from canton Schwyz and sponsors.

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