I’ve mentioned a few times that I was going to be a volunteer at the Alpine World Championships in Åre, Sweden. I did that, and now I’m back. I was one of about 1500 volunteers from over 30 countries. We were responsible for a range of activities, from course crew to credential checking to admin. We were asked whether we wanted to work on-course, and I chose not to because I’m too old and I thought I’d get too tired. Turns out I was right – the crews worked very hard day and night to keep the course in great condition. Some of them were teenagers for whom it was fantastically exciting – their enthusiasm never dimmed right up to the end of the last day. We all spent a lot of time at the volunteer centre, where there was a kitchen providing meals all day. There was also tv so we could watch the races, though there were plenty of opportunities to actually be at the course or the arena. Accommodation was hostel-type. I was in a room with two double bunks and a single bed. Initially there was me, an Italian, a Luxembourgeois and a Swiss guy. The Swiss guy got sick almost immediately and was spirited away somewhere so we wouldn’t catch his disease. My hostel was 20 km out of town, so a shuttle or local bus ride to get to town. A bit of an issue: the shuttles didn’t run all day, so it was a bit tricky planning for a 12 o’clock start if no bus after 8 am. We were all issued red santa suits. Here's me with some santas waiting for the 8am sled: The youtubes circulated in advance showed various people wearing red suits with J Lindeberg trademarks. Great, we all thought, but sadly the suits issued to us were not J Lindeberg products, and were of considerably lower quality. The owner of the resort, Skistar, had set up a brand called EQPE just for this event, and everything carried that logo. It was immediately clear that the suits were inadequate: women’s sizes were all too small, men’s too large, the gloves were ridiculously tight and nothing was up to dealing with temperatures as low as -27 degrees. Standing around on hard pack all day, it got very cold – especially in the first week. I ended up buying some Hestra mittens and woollen liners, and wearing two pairs of socks with the Sorels. Fortunately I had been in Japan the previous week, so I had adequate other thermal stuff of my own. I discovered a few weeks before I left that I had been rostered nine days straight without a break. I contacted my designated group leader and he undertook to fix this. He never did. One day I was guard dog at the VIP entrance. The crown princes of Sweden and Norway were both coming that day, so there was a bit of tension and everyone was very security conscious. We came to recognise the people from the royal protection group, so we would always know if a royal was going to be around. The Swedish royal family have a house at Storlien, not far away toward the Norwegian border. This is probably Sweden’s biggest sporting event for the year, so no surprise that they would be there. They just drive themselves around a lot of the time, so it was actually possible to see the king arrive in his Volvo without any fanfare. The races were great. Mikaela Shiffrin was the star, and very popular even though she beat local heroes like Frida Hansdotter and Anna Swenn Larson. I was fortunate to happen upon a queue of people waiting for Mikaela’s autograph, so I have that on my santa jacket and a selfie – my big fan moment. I also got other supporter merch for Frida, which I’m sure my spouse will tell me to throw away. The last couple of days I got to see the ladies’ slalom, and most of the men’s. One thing that struck me was the diversity of entries: I’d met the Bolivian team and the Ghanaian team, and there were people from lots of places that might not have a lot of snow, if any eg Madagascar. The lady from Haiti came last in the slalom, 1:36 behind Michaela - that’s one minute and thirty six seconds. Mikaela’s total time over two runs was 1:57, so no threat. Even so, the Haitian lady was ecstatic at the end of her run – hands pumping the sky in celebration. Obviously a big thing for her. I think we all know that these people mostly don’t live in the places they’re representing, but that doesn’t worry me. The volunteers had great spirit too. Many of them volunteer for all kinds of sporting stuff all over Europe. One thing for sure: without them the show doesn't run.