Volunteering is a lifestyle for Heike Lippertz. Since 2007, she’s worked at all FIS Ski World Cup events in Åre but one weekend. After meeting Anja Pärson in Gothenburg in 2006, Sweden and Åre eventually became so important for her that she ended up leaving her native Germany to move up North.
The seed for Heike Lippertz’s love for Sweden and the Swedish alpine team was born at a FIS Ski World Cup event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1996. There were two racers who stood out of the crowd for her: American Picabo Street and Pernilla Wiberg. That’s because ”they were the most fun”. The year thereafter, Wiberg threw her flower bouquet to Lippertz and that special connection was reaffirmed.
A bike holiday that changed Heike’s life
Heike had no natural connection to Sweden but her interest in the FIS Ski World Cup helped grow her interest in the country which eventually had unplanned, life-changing consequences. The journey from Germany to Jämtland began with a bike holiday in Sweden.
– I wanted to get to know the country better. I quit my job in Germany and decided to enjoy a bike holiday here. I bought a bike, blue and yellow of course, and rode away.
It was 2006 and Gothenburg played host to the European Championships in Athletics. When Heike reached the city, she unexpectedly ran into a well-known ski personality. Anja Pärson was in Gothenburg and she recognized the cycling German female she’d met at the FIS Ski World Cup before. Anja suggested to Heike that she should consider being part of the World Ski Championships 2007 in Åre, and so it happened.
– It was a ground-breaking experience for me, says Heike Lippertz, and continues:
– 2007 was amazing. It felt like one big family with everything working at the event. I did not know anyone beforehand but when I left, I felt a very strong need to stay in touch with my new-found family.
Football as the final straw
The decision to partake in the 2007 Championships was life-changing. It was the beginning of a long career in volunteering which resulted in Heike’s moving to Östersund. She felt drawn to Åre and being close to a ski resort. But she also received an unexpected offer that made her move possible. When she was in Ruhpolding in 2009, she met the Östersund women’s football team. The team was looking for a goal keeper and asked Heike Lippertz if she would be interested in coming to Östersund. That’s how life’s happenstances brought Heike Lippertz to Åre and Jämtland.
– Football was the final straw helping me make the decision but had Åre not been so close I don’t know whether I’d come here. Now that I am so close to Åre, things are happening all year round, says Heike and adds:
– It is great with the World Cup and now FIS also visits in the summer, so I can jump in to help drive them from the airport to Åre more often.
Since the 2007 Championships, Heike has only missed one weekend of racing in Åre. That’s when Åre replaced Val d’Isère and Courchevel at a short notice due to a lack of snow in France in December 2014.
– I missed one full weekend when the additional competitions were taken over by Åre. I happened to be in Germany that weekend and it all happened so quickly that I could not change my plans. That’s when I sat at home and cried out of disappointment for not being able to be part of it.
Personal time with the stars
Today Heike Lippertz is one of the most experienced volunteers in Jämtland. She drives racers and team staff from the airports at Östersund and Trondheim to Åre and back. That’s how she gets to spend time with the stars, FIS staff and others in the industry and how she’s become well-known for most of them.
– You get personal time with the racers. You sit in a car for an hour or two and have time to talk. That’s really fun.
The reason that she returns to her role as a volunteer is not just about the driving of the athletes and others to Åre. It is mostly about the atmosphere and she describes the events in Åre as a family affair.
– Everyone knows each other, many have been returning since 2007. Everyone is happy, helpful and you feel very welcome.
Wow, wow, wow
Heike still lives in Östersund and is always ready to participate when there are FIS World Cup events in Åre. There have been no World Cups in Åre in the last two seasons because of the preparations for the World Championships 2019. But in March 2018, it is time for the FIS World Cup Finals and in February 2019, Heike Lippertz will have a chance to experience other World Ski Championships on home ground. When Åre was elected as the organizer, it did not take long until she sent in her registration as a volunteer.
– When it was clear that the World Championships would return to Åre, I could only say: wow, wow, wow, recalls Heike who cannot wait to do it all again.
Listen to the entire podcast here and subscribe to more exciting interviews with the racers and others involved in Alpine Skiing. Are you interested in volunteering? Visit our websites to register to volunteer directly either at the World Cup Finals 2018 or at Åre 2019.