Swiss ski school scraps “stressful” races for young children

Swiss ski school scraps “stressful” races for young children
Ski holidays are a key part of growing up for many Swiss children. Photo: JEAN PIERRE CLATOT / AFP
A ski school in the eastern Swiss resort of Davos has pulled the plug on the traditional end-of-course races for its youngest participants, saying the beginner events are proving too stressful.

Teachers of five-to-seven-year-olds were being forced to act as “psychiatrists” in the run-up to such races while “the losers cried after the events”, Claudio Rupp, the director the Topsecret Ski- und Snowboard School, told the Swiss edition of the 20 minutes news site.

Rupp said the races held at the end of skiing holidays had been increasingly less popular in recent years with “overtaxed” school-aged children simply not showing up in a bid to avoid the sort of sort of stress they already had to deal with at school.

Instead, the academy in the town made famous by the annual World Economic Forum has opted for a performance. “The kids put on the show together and have a lot of fun,” the school director said, adding that while most parents had not been against the idea of races, they had backed the school’s new plans.

Higher-level students could still participate in races, Rupp said.

The importance of competition

Zurich-based child psychologist Selina Luchsinger welcomed the proposal and said she was seeing an increasing number of primary school who had “signs of burnout”. Holidays should be a time for recreation, she said.

But the psychologists also noted most children liked competition with the peers and this was an important part of their development. In an ideal world, children would be able to choose whether they wanted to participate in a race, she explained.

Riet R. Campell, the director of the ski school industry body Swiss Snowsports, said he was not aware of any other schools having decided to scrap ski races.

The director of the organization which represents around 170 schools admitted the subject of races had come up in the past. “But we came to the conclusion that these [races] are a great experience for every child. Even when losing is sometimes part and parcel.”

Campell added that all participants, including those who didn’t place in races, received medals, which enabled them to remember the event with pride throughout the year.