Youth work in difficult times

Anyone who grows up in direct eye contact with the mountains in the Isarwinkel can and may find it hard to imagine that at some point there will no longer be enough snow for skiing on the Brauneck. Sophie Mayr from Ellbach near Bad Tölz openly admits that it would be best not to think too much about what will happen in ten or 20 years. “I’ll see what’s coming in the next two or three years,” says the 27-year-old new youth secretary of the German Ski Association (DSV). “Otherwise I could panic.” This view sounds like a form of repression. Perhaps Mayr is just expressing her passion for skiing, which she wants to convey to the children and young people in the clubs in her role.

What fascinates Mayr so much can hardly be put into words. Nevertheless, an attempt at interpretation: the young woman, who used to be active in competitive sports herself, speaks of the mountain as an adventure space. “When I’m standing at the top and I only see mountains around me, then I have a completely different perspective on things.” For her, this is a balance to the rest of everyday life. “When the edges dig into the snow, that’s the absolute highlight,” says Mayr. She couldn’t imagine not being on skis in winter. Fortunately, she has the mountains themselves on her doorstep. “I’m glad that through my competitive sports career I was able to experience what passion means, both positively and negatively,” says Mayr.

“I can pass on my experience that a goal is worth fighting for.”

Because this also means learning to deal with defeats, exploring the physical limits of performance, becoming independent and working in a team at the same time. “I can pass on my experience that it’s worth fighting for a goal,” says Mayr. She studied sports economics at the University of Bayreuth in Upper Franconia. Although she did not win any World Cup, World Championship or Olympic medals, she did win the German university championships in the alpine skiing disciplines slalom and giant slalom in 2019.

In the middle of this changeable winter with little snow – in January – Mayr took over her new position as DSV youth secretary. The season was up and down, although it started promisingly in mid-December with an early onset of winter and the start of the ski season at Brauneck. Then, however, followed a long warm period. As a result, the lifts on the Lenggrieser local mountain had to stop operating for a little over two weeks in January before they could start again thanks to low temperatures and repeated snowfalls. Against this background, Mayr himself admits that winter sports face challenges when they need snow. “The winter season is getting shorter,” said the DSV youth secretary. “We have to position ourselves all year round.”

Winter sports: In Lenggries, there used to be competitions on the ski jump, like here in the picture Franz Mechler from SC Bad Tölz in the 1930s.

There used to be competitions on the ski jump in Lenggries, like here in the picture Franz Mechler from SC Bad Tölz in the 1930s.

(Photo: private)

For Mayer, writing off winter sports entirely is out of the question. Perhaps the Isarwinkel is hardly imaginable without skiing, as there are photographs in which winter sports enthusiasts with skis and sticks march in long queues from the Lenggries train station in the direction of Brauneck. Then they had to walk up the mountain. Because the cable car only opened in 1957. A look back as an outlook on the future of skiing in the Isarwinkel? Probably only insofar as the mountain railway operators are once again focusing more on arriving by public transport, which Mayr also emphasizes. Because the outward and return journey causes the most climate-damaging carbon dioxide emissions. “With us at the DSV, carpooling is the be-all and end-all,” she says.

“After that you know that the effort is worth it.”

As DSV youth secretary, Mayr sees her task as networking ski clubs with schools and kindergartens, for example recruiting teachers as multipliers so that school ski camps can continue to exist. Children and young people in particular are often quick to get enthusiastic about nature sports in the glittering snow, she says. Mayr reports enthusiastically about the radiance in their eyes at this year’s Felix Neureuther school camp in Garmisch: “Afterwards you know that the effort is worth it.” This experience of being on skis in nature is what makes skiing so valuable.

According to Mayr, the DSV also cooperates with travel providers to make school class trips to youth hostels like the one in Bad Tölz uncomplicated. In the Skitty Cup – a nationwide series of events named after the white and black tiger mascot of the DSV – six to nine-year-olds can playfully familiarize themselves with snow sports. Clubs can also apply for the DSV Summer Ski Olympics and compete in disciplines such as biathlon (a combination of running and throwing balls at a target), Nordic combined or cross-country skiing without snow.

Winter sports: In addition to the Sonnenbichl in Bad Wiessee, Lenggries - here a photo of the U16 student cup on the World Cup slope 2012 - is one of the training bases in the region.

In addition to the Sonnenbichl in Bad Wiessee, Lenggries – here a photo of the U16 student cup on the World Cup slope 2012 – is one of the training bases in the region.

(Photo: Manfred Neubauer)

In addition to her full-time job at the DSV, Mayr also trains children and young people at her Tölzer home ski club and eleven to twelve-year-olds at the Oberland Ski Association on a voluntary basis. In 2019 she was even voted coach of the year for her successful work at SC Bad Tölz. In general, clubs fought for members and coaches who wanted to get involved, says Mayr. She is aware that skiing will always be associated with a certain “elitist” image in view of the costs, from equipment to lift tickets. But there are ski bazaars to get cheap skis and clothing, especially for children. Mountain railways such as Brauneck offer more favorable conditions for family tickets and ski club members.

According to the DSV, around 650,000 skiers are currently organized in 20 state ski associations. She wants to help make skiing possible for everyone, says Mayr. She couldn’t imagine a winter without him.

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