Industry Heavyweights: Roby Moresi, Snowboard Assistant Director, FIS.



Roby chilling in Copper.
Photo: Giacomo Margutti

The FIS or International Ski Federation is the highest governing body for interinternational winter sports and therefore entering FIS contests is the only way for a rider to attend the Olympic games.
Since the beginning of competitive snowboarding the FIS has been seen by many as the enemy of snowboarders. FIS contests see practically no coverage by the snowboard media and many riders have been seen with Fuck FIS stickers on their boards since the early 90’s.
With the Olympic qualification process for the 2018 Pyenogchang already underway, riders wanting to go to the games are already competing in FIS events. One man looking to change the negative perception of the FIS is assistant Race Director, Roby Moresi . His passion and knowledge of snowboarding has already earnt the respect of the riders but what are his plans for the future and will we ever be at peace with the FIS? 

Firstly what is your job description and background? And how will you change the perception on the FIS?
Firstly, I do love snowboarding and I have been working for FIS since 2011 as an assistant race director for all disciplines and in the last couple of years focused on HP-BA and slope style, as this is my main background.

The FIS and snowboarding has always had a volatile relationship, how do you plan to change this?
FIS is putting in a big amount of resources in snowboarding, but like any international federation, it operates in ways that can’t be just changed on the fly and can’t just satisfy everybody out there, like anything else in the world. There’s always somebody who is not happy (or happy enough) and gets frustrated because I believe they share the same passion and would like to see the sport developed and treated differently – like all of us in the end. But this comes with time. It’s a slow but steady process and I believe we are moving in the right direction.
Snowboarding is a very particular “sport” as you know. It’s a mix of multi-faceted things made up of lifestyle, passion, hobby, friendship… which generates huge interests for many and it is still very young and dynamic. I really do enjoy this job. The interaction with snowboarders, teams, local organisers, media and my colleagues are just great. Of course there are moments of frustration and anger connected to different aspects of the job, but overall I like where we are headed here is still a lot to do and it does take time to gain the trust and respect of many, so that FIS is no longer seen as the ‘devil’
From living day by day with the riders and teams during all the comps I actually see that there is a good level of satisfaction and everybody is happy to be on the FIS tour but there is still lots of room for improvement in many directions.

How did the FIS tour become the contest to get into the Olympics?
I do not know the details of how FIS became the organisation that is responsible for the Olympic qualification process, but I know that there were certain values in place such as fairness, transparency, equal opportunity and dope-free status in order to participate at the Olympic Games. These values were already worked out, implemented and managed within The FIS system and these values are still the key pillars of our work besides wanting to deliver high-quality events, showcasing and promoting the sport worldwide.

OG Gian Simmen winning the first Snowboard gold in Nagano 98
Photo:IOC

How does it make you feel when you see those fuck FIS stickers on riders boards?
While I am present at most FIS events, I haven’t seen a FUCK FIS sticker for many years and knowing most of the riders I don’t see them doing this as I’d like to believe that they are above such issues and are just looking to compete in events and do the best possible. The relationship between FIS and the riders is great and we totally respect and listen to their requests, although we do of course have to find a balance to conduct safe and fair events. At the point where we are right now, in 2017, I don’t want to look too much at what happened in the past, but I am looking at the future and with FIS we are “GOOD”. Not only because of what we do but also because the community wants to come together and the result is out there for all to see.

The snowboard media don’t really cover FIS events and some go as far to say that the FIS is bad for snowboarding. Is this something that you find frustrating and how would you like to see this changed?
There are different kinds of journalists out there and I would say that the core print media has never covered many contests in general, and when they do cover an event, it’s because they are media partners of that event or because the main sponsors of the event have ads in their magazines. This is fine as there are many more aspects to snowboarding than just competitions, such as video parts, trips and interviews. On the other hand, websites do cover our events and we also have good coverage on many national broadcasters.
I would say that there are different ways to measure the amounts of coverage, but indeed it’s not easy to gain a big cut in the mainstream media. If we look at the Asian block, we are doing really well and these are huge numbers. Of course we have to keep in mind where we come from and how important it is to keep the originality of our world. Mainstream media is important, but we are looking at all the other tools out there to maximise the viewership. There are big competitions out there for exposure not only in the framework of winter sports but all sports, TV shows etc.… it is a battle and we have to fight it.

Obviously the riders are doing FIS events to get a chance to attend the Olympics, what are the riders saying about FIS events and how much do you listen to their views and feedback?
As I said before, the riders are pretty stoked to be on the tour and most of the comments I’ve heard are positive and exceed our expectations. Take for instance the Big Air in Milan or the halfpipe (or the slopestyle last year) in PyeongChang, all the riders enjoyed the contests and were especially happy with the features. The slopestyle course we prepared for the Olympic test event was probably the most progressive one we’ve seen in the past few years and all the riders just loved it. This season we’ve had big names like Mark McMorris, Marcus Kleveland, Shaun White, Scotty James and so on, who really liked both the events and the competition itself. Mark won the Crystal Globe in Big Air, as well as Scotty in half-pipe. Go ask them what they think of the FIS contests from this season and see what their opinion is. Enni won in Seiser Alm, just a new addition to our tour from this season. Ask her how the slopestyle course and the park and the whole environment was.
I listen and connect to all riders and take feedback into consideration. There is a lot of feedback and athletes are one of the key stakeholders out there. I think they trust my recommendations and after talking with me, they understand our difficulties as well, and together we always try to find the most appropriate solution. Not to forget, we have a great group of professionals among the organisers and contracted builders and resorts as well, that can deliver great products that benefit the riders. The riders see this and appreciate it.

Do you think snowboarding puts too much emphasis on the Olympics?
I personally like the Olympic Games a lot, but that’s not me as a snowboarder but more as a person. The beauty of snowboarding is that there are so many possibilities out there. Riders are competitive and they see the Olympics as a pinnacle of their sport and of course they want to win. There is nothing wrong with this. There are many events out there, but the Olympics are special for certain reasons like the US Open or the Laax Open are for others. It is what it is and I don’t think it’s too much or too little. Ultimately, it’s important for the riders and we should respect this and help them perform at the highest level and deliver a great show besides a legit competition. And in the end, we should all consider that the Olympics are a huge occasion for the core snowboarding to reach all the people in the world who don’t ride yet or they just can’t. Just think of what it meant for the British snowboarding movement when Jenny Jones won the Olympic bronze medal in Sochi 2014. Love it or hate it, we just can’t deny the riders their chance to show the whole world what they can do, on the biggest stage ever.
I believe that Terje’s choice to boycott the Games has to be respected just as much as Gian Simmen’s gold in 1998. I love snowboarding so much that I just want it to be known as much as possible all around the world – and we just can’t turn down this huge possibility that the Olympics represent.

A lot of big air events have been quite similar in that the riders are doing the same tricks, which can often not be as exciting to watch. Is there anything FIS plan to do about this? Maybe introduce a style run, with nothing over a 5 is allowed?
We have to keep in mind that we have the luxury to see these riders perform day after day but we are a restricted group of people. Of course there is the opportunity to watch the events on TV, webcast and so on, but a live event is incredible and emotionally unique and it’s always a different group of viewers that sees this once a year, if not in many years, and to them it’s amazing even if it’s the same as all the other events of the season. So altogether, even if it is a repetitive show, it’s not for many at the same time. And to a certain extent it’s always different. On the other hand we are asked to listen to the riders when we set future plans. The guys performing out there are the riders and they are pushing the level and performing the tricks so they are a big part of the concept planning, but at the same time they might not be aware of all aspects so it is a common process that must include other actors and be broader than just consulting riders.
One thing for sure is that setting limitation rules is not the right direction from what we have understood. We went through the same process with half-pipe by having the straight air mandatory trick, but then riders were not so happy about it and said that there was no need to have it, and still if you do a great air it’s a key trick. In BA I guess it’s a little harder but for sure we are keen in exploring and finding new solutions. In general there should be a strategy that keeps in consideration many aspects so that the events are appealing but also meets the basic standards that the sport has to showcase.

Does it bother you that a lot of people hate on the FIS and do you think we will ever see a time when the FIS is more generally accepted by snowboarders?
I see that. I don’t get this feeling that people have, a very small group in fact, and to be honest I am not bothered at all. Haters will keep on hating anyways, I’ve come to terms with this. But those who I have had the chance to talk to are all pretty cool and understand the situation and have understood that we have to all work together and find constructive and productive solutions within the situation we are in and to pursue them. It’s when you can’t talk to people that they have a different and wrong perception of the facts and reality and of course we don’t all agree on all points but we have to move ahead working out the problems.

Are anti FIS statements a thing of the past?

 

Some snowboarders like to smoke weed in their free time, is that included in the drugs testing? Does weed enhance a snowboarders chances of winning?
Obviously some like to smoke, drink, play golf, eat good food, surf, skate and many more things but…Marijuana is included in the drug tests. I have no idea if it enhances a rider’s chances of winning though.

Your official title is race director, how many people have commented to you that snowboarding isn’t only about racing?
I started to define myself as Contest Director. Hope my bosses don’t fire me 🙂

There are a lot different snowboard tours and events these days, do you think we will ever see a time when there is one tour that stands out, such as in surfing. If so would the FIS be the ones to run such a tour and why?
There are a variety of events for sure at all levels, which is great, but when I think of global tours, worldwide, there are not too many tours: actually only Air&Style (so far only 3 BA stops, but could be evolving), Grand Prix – Dew Tour (only USA), X, Games, Freeride World Tour (different area) and I would say FIS with at least 5 – 6 stops in all freestyle disciplines worldwide. Talking to TTR or WST they don’t consider themselves a tour anymore rather than a ranking list…So I can’t think of any other tour. A tour should at least have more than 4 – 5 stops I guess.
This year we have had only really positive feedback. I believe that the dedication, time, energy, connections, strong relationships and trust are paying off. Of course there is space for improvement and we want to improve so that at the end snowboarders and the community of snowboarders can feel that FIS is not BAD but GOOD.
It will be hard to change everybody’s mindset and that is not the goal. There will always be a certain level of resentment but that is what, along with the riders’ needs, drives me and many others to deliver better competitions so that at the end of the day we all can go home to our families, friends and fellow snowboarders happy that we pulled off a great snowboard event and that many appreciated the show.

Still a simple ollie, back slash, air, bonk, grab and riding with my small kids, makes me smile and love snowboarding no matter what.