VOLUNTEER WEEK WITH JOHN VLAHOS
The AISTS recently provided the Class of 2019 with a unique opportunity to spend a week volunteering as part of the MAS program. We invited John Vlahos to be a guest writer and let us know how his week went.
One of the events at which participants could choose to volunteer at was the International Ski Mountaineering World Championships being held in Villars, Switzerland. With the perks of free buffet meals and accommodations provided at a 5-star hotel in the mountains, including access to the spa, many of us quickly packed our bags and boarded the next train to Villars.
To be completely honest, we were met with a few surprises upon our arrival. Firstly, parts of the hotel seemed as though they were straight out of “The Shining”. After receiving our accreditations and attending our first briefing, we found out that there would be daily pre-competitions meetings beginning at 5:45am! Despite these initial points of concern, we quickly learned that this would be an amazing experience to be a part of.
Each morning we took a train ride up the mountain that provided us with some absolutely breathtaking views. It was these sights that made us quickly forget of our early wake-up calls and got us excited for the days ahead. We learned that the roles that we would be filling during the competition would carry more responsibility than those tasks usually assigned to volunteers at sporting events. At points, each of the 23 volunteers from AISTS that participated had duties that included creating and marking the courses that athletes followed throughout the mountains, overseeing and administering the control of athlete equipment and ensuring that it respected the rules and limitations set out by the International Ski Mountaineering Federation, and even acting as chaperones for athletes selected for doping tests.
Admittedly, there were times when the conditions were difficult to work in. There were some instances in which the snow and winds called for parts of the competitions to be delayed and rescheduled however this, as we learned, is the reality of an outdoor winter sporting event. These instances offered us unique insight into the coordinating of such events and how event organizers must be flexible and able to adapt to unexpected issues. No matter what mother nature had in store for us, it was always forgiven following the events with coffees, hot chocolates, and perhaps a few other beverages. Each day, the volunteers shared warm meals in log cabins up in the mountains. From fondue to raclette we were provided with endless amounts of cheese that kept us energized for the work ahead. Many of us though, took the opportunity to nap on the train rides down the mountain after the competition had concluded.
AISTS participants volunteered for anywhere between 2 and 10 days and each one of us took home a valuable experience that we’ll remember for the rest of our careers in sport. Besides the organising of the competition, the volunteering and the experience being part of an international sporting event, the group that volunteered had the opportunity to strengthen our relationships and become even closer friends. At the end of the day, we may not remember all the lessons taught in lectures, but we will undoubtedly remember the times we shared together.
Written by John Vlahos, Class of 2019