FIS to Elect First New Leader in 23 Years

A new President will be chosen to head the International Ski Federation at the governing body’s online Congress. A British former alpine racer is hoping to be the first woman to take on the role.  UPDATED

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It’s without doubt the most important election for FIS in a long time.

The person chosen will take over from Gian-Franco Kasper who has run the organisation for 23 years.

No woman has ever been President in its almost 100-year history and one is among the four candidates.

She is Sarah Lewis who was unceremoniously sacked without warning from her role as Secretary General of FIS last year.

That might indicate that she has little chance of success.

However, she has claimed in an interview that she was encouraged to stand by many supporters and that considering going for the job was why she was pushed out last year.

“Clearly, I can only assume that that is what’s behind it,” she told The Ticket, a sports show on ABC Radio.

“I wasn’t present at the meeting where the decision was taken, or informed about it in advance, or given an opportunity to really present any form of case when [there was] a discussion about my position.

“But it’s in hindsight now.

“What happened at the time was of course humiliating, especially the way it was communicated.

“After working in that director and secretary-general role for 23 years it was certainly a humiliating way to go.”

She insists she holds no grudges.

Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis talks to Dave Ryding at Chamonix World Cup, February 2020. Image © PlanetSKI

The fate of Sarah Lewis and other candidates will be determined by 123 voting delegates from National Ski Associations.

They have had training sessions and taken part in mock votes ahead of Friday’s election to ensure the online voting works smoothly.

They will elect both the President and the FIS Council.

Twenty people are running for Council, including seven new candidates.

“There is not a doubt that this will be a historic day for the entire FIS family and we want to ensure that everything runs with absolute precision and professionalism,” said FIS Director Philippe Gueisbuhler.

The other candidates for President are Johan Eliasch (Sweden), who was put forward by the British governing body, GB Snowsport, Mats Årjes (Sweden) and Urs Lehmann (Switzerland).


Mats Årjes

Mats Årjes joined the FIS Council in 2010 and was then named as Vice-President in 2018 and named the FIS Treasurer and Chairman of the Finance Commission the same years.

He is President, Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors of SkiStar AB.

In 2018 he was elected President of the Swedish Olympic Committee. From 2004 to 2008 he served as Secretary General, respectively 2008 to 2018 as President of the Swedish Ski Association.

Mr Årjes used to alpine ski race actively in his youth, up to a national elite level, until he was forced to retire from competition due to injury.

Johan Eliasch

Johan Eliasch has spent many years working in the sports manufacturing industry, having previously worked in the private equity industry. He acquired the Austrian sporting goods company HEAD 25 years ago.

Beyond the sporting world, Eliasch has become a leading expert on solutions to issues caused by climate change, advising the UK Government on Deforestation and Clean Energy. In 2005, he created the Rainforest Trust, and in 2006, he co-founded Cool Earth. He has advised British Prime Ministers, and Shadow ministers, and currently is President of the political think tank, Global Strategy Forum.

He has a long list of business interests and has served as director on several boards, including the British Olympic Association.  He lives in London.

Urs Lehmann

Urs Lehmann has been the President of Swiss-Ski since 2008 and has served a member of the Board of Directors since 2006. For 10 years he competed in the FIS Alpine World Cup and was a member of the Swiss National Team. He won downhill gold at the 1993 World Championships.

He has also been a Eurosport co-commentator, Salomon Race Director and a Member of the Board of the Laureus Sports for Good Foundation Switzerland.

He is CEO and shareholder of Similasan Group.

Sarah Lewis OBE

Sarah Lewis, who first put on skis aged five, has spent her life in snow sport. By the age of 15 she was training internationally and at 24 she represented Great Britain at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary.

After working in the ski industry and media and spending nearly four years as Alpine Director of the National Ski Association of Great Britain, Sarah joined FIS in 1994.

By 2000, after four years as Continental Cup Coordinator and two years as FIS Director, Lewis was appointed Secretary General.

She has actively participated in competitions and events in most of the 75 FIS member nations and has been a member of the International Olympic Committee Programme Commission, three Coordination Commissons for the Olympic Winter Games and two Youth Olympic Games, and led the FIS Delegation at five Olympic Winter Games.

Lewis has also served as Secretary General of the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations and Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency Independent Observers at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.


  • The 52nd International Ski Congress is scheduled to start at 1200 CEST (1100 BST) on Friday 4th June.  It will be open to the public to view on the FIS YouTube channel at the following link: https://youtu.be/I31gZ2F1XlU

Or view it below:

The winner needs a majority of the voting points.

The election could  go to a second round of voting as the candidate with the lowest points in the first round is eliminated.

Here at PlanetSKI we will be following proceedings and reporting on the winner.

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