The AIJS (Association Internationale Journalistes de Ski) – the International Association of Ski Journalists – was founded in the early 1960s by a group of reporters from various European countries in the same time as international ski racing, Alpine and Nordic, started to boom over the planet.
Toni Sailer’s spectacular triumphs in the 1950’s and the successful 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley put winter sports on the map in more countries than before and the major races – now called the “Classics” – attracted always more visitors and reporters onsite.
In those days, there were no press rooms as now equipped with telephones, internet, WIFI, TV’s, faxes and other useful communication tools. The reporters mostly worked in their hotel rooms and dictated their stories over the phone to the secretaries of their offices. Only a few ones used no longer existing telexes and it was also quite complicated to quickly receive official results and comments from the racers or the coaches.
Television was not as popular as now and most establish sports writers watched the races on the slopes, often clocking themselves intermediate times in specific difficult parts of the slope which they carefully described in their reports.
Some journalists such as Karl Erb, a correspondent of the noted “Sport” from Zurich, Philippe Gaussot, the legendary writer of the “Dauphiné Libéré”, Michel Clare from “l’Equipe” or Serge Lang from “La Suisse” and ‘Blick’ thought it was crucial to improve the working conditions of the press which is those days were not yet called “the media”.
They decided to found their own association in order to have a stronger common voice when addressing their problems to the organizers or the FIS – the International Ski Federation which soon became their strong partner. It was also decided afterwards that their group would reward the most brilliant athlete of the season with a special price – the “Skieur d’Or” – presented at the end of each season during the Arlberg Kandahar event. Martini & Rossi was the first sponsor of that beautiful trophy.
The first recipient of that award was Egon Zimmermann in 1963, the giant slalom World Champion in 1962 at Chamonix and a winner in Kitzbühel and Wengen. The racer from the famous “Ski Club Arlberg” was not only a top champion who also clinched Olympic gold in downhill the following year at Innsbruck but also a gentleman and a good friend of many foreign skiers, especially France’s Guy Perillat and Jean Claude Killy.
A series of great champions follow him on the list of winners – mainly all top guns from the next forty years or so!
The efforts of the AIJS were soon rewarded by improving working conditions in places as Wengen where Karl Erb installed in the Hotel Victoria Lauberhorn the first true Press-Room with a few phone lines, tables with typewriters and a better results service.
In 1966, the press room was moved into the sport arena of the new schoolhouse built in Wengen and the Swiss Post and Telecommunication also brought telex operators to help the press. That efficient model was soon used by other major events who better understood the needs of the journalists and the excellent promotion that they could supply.
In 1966, the AIJS was also involved in the launching of the newly created Ski World Cup and the FIS awarded four seats for the AIJS Board within the first World Cup Committee founded in June 1967 at the FIS Congress in Beirut.
It was the start of the very efficient cooperation between FIS and the AIJS who both work together to promote ski racing.
Serge Lang was the chairman of the AIJS from its creation until his death in 1999. His first successor was Mr.Robert Seeger, the established sports commentators from ORF, the Austrian state TV channel. The organisation meets now annually in Sölden, in the Hotel Central at, where the “Skieur d’Or” also called “Serge Lang Trophy” has also been presented with the support of Milka to the elected champion.
In 2010, Robert Seeger stepped down and Italy’s journalist Gernot Mussner, the efficient former Chief of Press of Val Gardena was chosen by the members attending the general assembly.
Three Vice-Presidents were also named – Remo Geisser from Switzerland, Michael Schuen from Austria and veteran Patrick Lang, from France – to support his actions. This group met several times during the past years to check the present organisation and management of the AIJS and its members.
During summer 2011, it was decided to found a ‘new’ AIJS in order to fulfil all the requests made by international financial and fiscal authorities – and this was made early August in Bolzano, in the office of a local notary. This base was indispensable as the documents of the original foundation of the AIJS in Switzerland were not found back.
The new board of the AIJS has also decided to look into strong improvements of its administration and services (e.g. accommodation issues) offered to the members of the association.
by Patrick Lang
if you are a journalist and want to join the AIJS. Please contact his President Patrick Lang