Swedish Olympic Committee President Mats Årjes wants to become the new head of the International Ski Federation ©Getty Images

International Ski Federation (FIS) vice-president Mats Årjes has claimed he has the experience and expertise to "modernise" the organisation as he bids to pick up the reins from outgoing President Gian-Franco Kasper.

Årjes has served as a FIS Council member since 2010 and became a vice-president, treasurer and chair of its Finance Commission in 2018.

The Swedish Olympic Committee (SOC) President is now aiming to replace Kasper as head of the FIS.

Switzerland's Urs Lehmann, Sweden’s Johan Eliasch and Britain’s Sarah Lewis are also in the running for the top job.

But Årjes, the former President of the Swedish Ski Association (SSA), believes he has an advantage over his rivals having been involved with the FIS for more than 10 years and had a 17-year spell as chief executive of SkiStar which operates Scandinavia’s five largest ski resorts.

"I am the only one out of the four candidates that has experience from both sides - the commercial side and sporting side," Årjes told insidethegames.

"I have been on the Board of the FIS since 2010 so of course I have quite a lot of experience and I believe that FIS has a great heritage and the platform to move on."

Årjes said he was "very positive" and had a "good feeling" heading into the election which is due to be held virtually on June 4.

The Swede also revealed that becoming President would fulfil a long-held ambition as he looks to succeed Kasper who is set to step down after 23 years in charge of the organisation.

"I have been thinking about this for years," said Årjes.

"I have had so many people supporting me so when Gian-Franco decided to resign I immediately decided I would like to be part of that group of potential successors."

FIS vice-president Mats Årjes believes the organisation can improve across the board ©Getty Images
FIS vice-president Mats Årjes believes the organisation can improve across the board ©Getty Images

The SSA nominated Årjes for FIS President and clamed he would launch the "greatest" review in the sport’s history as it aims to identify areas where the organisation can improve.

Improving representation and gender equality, increasing transparency, strengthening the athlete voice and implementing governance best practice form part of Årjes’ plans.

Årjes is hoping to utilise modern technologies and digital communications to maximise engagement, by improving event formats and engaging ski and snowboard destinations to enhance access to the sport.

The 54-year-old said he had been "more than impressed" by what Kasper had achieved as President.

But he claims there is "huge potential" for the FIS to grow and believes all the National Ski Associations are expecting the organisation to be modernised.

"This is a matter of using the great heritage of FIS and using the platform that has been built up for years but on the other hand we have to modernise a lot,” said Årjes.

"We have been waiting for this.

"This is a great opportunity for us to make changes to make sure that FIS is considered as a modern and very successful organisation.

"The most important thing is to realise that all entities or companies can be improved and developed.

"From my perspective, even if I have been part of the organisation as a Board member for 10 years I believe that we can improve a lot and I am ready and eager to start doing this after the election."

Årjes was re-elected for a second term as President of SOC last month and will now stay in the role until 2025 but he does not believe this role will hinder his efforts to run the FIS, should he be elected.

Årjes has hailed the work of Gian-Franco Kasper who has been in charge of the FIS since 1998 ©Getty Images
Årjes has hailed the work of Gian-Franco Kasper who has been in charge of the FIS since 1998 ©Getty Images

"The only answer I can give is that it is much better to be President of the National Olympic Committee instead of not be that, considering the fact that you are being elected as FIS President," said Årjes.

"Both the FIS and the National Olympic Committee can benefit from each other."

Årjes comes up against Lewis whose 20-year tenure as secretary general of the FIS ended when she was removed from the role last October.

The FIS faced criticism for how it announced the news of Lewis’ departure as the organisation only published a short statement confirming she was no longer the secretary general.

It initially stated the decision was "based on a complete loss of confidence".

A later statement by the FIS removed any mention of a loss of confidence but did not offer any thanks or gratitude to Lewis for the work she had done.

When asked about the nature of Lewis’ departure, Årjes refused to comment.

Lewis was replaced by former Global Association of International Sports Federations director Philippe Gueisbuhler in December.

She has been nominated by the Royal Belgian Ski Federation as she seeks to become the first female to lead the FIS.

Swedish billionaire Eliasch, chief executive of sporting goods manufacturer Head, was put forward by GB Snowsport, while Lehmann, a former men's world downhill champion, is also standing for President.

The election is due to take place remotely on June 4 after the FIS decided to hold its Congress virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.