«Voluntaris» is the 1,300-strong team of volunteers that will be working on and behind the scenes at the 2017 World Ski Championships. They are the backbone of the championships, working tirelessly around the clock and without salary. Curdin Conrad, the founder of Skiservice, is one of them.
«It’s all down to the right mix,» chuckles Walter Stamm as he stirs in a cup of food colourant into a bucket of warm water. Walter is in charge of the blue paint mixture used to show the athletes their way down the hill. The blue lines bring out the contours and the uneven ground of the course. At the 2017 World Ski Championships, these markings are drawn by a small team of experienced volunteers. «The dye is but one percent of the mixture. Depending on the outside temperature, we add more or less alcohol to the solution to make sure it doesn’t freeze in the sprayers.»
It is a tough job. Invariably, it will still be pitch-black when the ‹colouring team› arrives on the mountain, and work on the course begins as soon as day breaks – regardless of the weather.
«When visibility is bad, our job is all the more crucial to ensure a safe race» explains Curdin Conrad. «The lines down the sides and across the course create a colour contrast against the snow and help the skiers make out bumps and undulations.»
The ‹sprayers› haul the colour mixture up to the slopes in a container that they carry on their backs. They apply it to the snow evenly using a hand pump. Strong and skilled skiers are required: «Sliding down an icy slope with 30 kilos on your back and making sure to paint even lines at the same time can be tricky,» Robert Turnes reflects on the task. He has been volunteering for the ski races in St. Moritz for more than 40 years. «I could not imagine not being a voluntari. We work hard, but we have lots of fun, too.»
After the 2017 world championship, the trio wants to slow down. «We are turning grey,» Curdin Conrad, the founder of Skiservice, says with a grin.
Finding new people to take over can be difficult: «Voluntaris aren’t just free labour. Each team has clearly defined tasks. It can take years to master them.
But that is the only way we can ensure that the races can be carried out safely and without a hitch,» Robert tells us at the end of his shift.
The race is over. The colouring team encountered no major problems; none of them had a fall on the steep terrain. «Team spirit is our strongest motivator, I guess,» muses team captain Robert as he checks the gear for the following day’s work. «Jointly, we can be instrumental in helping a small place like St. Moritz bring about something as big as a world ski championship.» The men troop home wearily. They will meet again on the following day at 6 a.m.
«Voluntari» stands for a volunteer in Romansh. Some 1,300 volunteers will be working almost day and night at the 2017 Alpine World Ski Championships. They carry out countless tasks on and behind the scenes. The volunteer association «Voluntari Engiadina» counts more than 3,800 members who work at ski races and other events in their spare time.www.voluntari.ch