“The EPFL-ETHZ Challenge is like one big family”
The annual EPFL-ETHZ Challenge brings together students from the two schools to do battle on the ski slopes. Former participants Claire Payoux, Lucy Mayance and Michaël Tasev enjoyed the experience so much that they joined the organizing committee.
For the members of the EPFL-ETHZ Challenge committee, the goal is simple: to provide a fun sporting experience to the students taking part. That experience certainly lived up to expectations for Claire Payoux, Lucy Mayance and Michaël Tasev who, after participating as competitors, decided to join the AGEPoly committee in charge of organizing the event.
Michaël Tasev, who’s studying for a Master’s in communication systems at EPFL, served as chair of the committee for the 2022 Challenge. “My first task was to put together a team of people who, ideally, had some experience in running this kind of event,” he explains. According to tradition, a brand-new committee is appointed for each edition of the Challenge. “The committee only serves for one year because organizing the competition is a huge commitment in terms of time, energy and emotional resources,” adds Tasev. “We put in 20 to 30 hours a week, and as much as 40 hours in the run-up to the event. The logo and color scheme change each year, and so participants are really attached to them.”
Lucy Mayance, who recently completed a Bachelor’s in materials science and engineering at EPFL, was on the 2023 committee. In odd-numbered years, the main event is organized by students at ETH Zurich. “Responsibility switches each year, but the committee always includes two students from the other school,” says Mayance, who had to make frequent trips to Zurich as a committee member. “There were some obvious cultural differences” she adds. “The two schools operate quite differently. For instance, there are a lot more rules and regulations at EPFL, especially in terms of safety.”
Preparations are already in full swing for next year’s Challenge week, which will take place in March 2024. Claire Payoux, a Master’s student in EPFL’s management of technology program, is the vice chair of the new committee. “We currently have to plan and organize the qualifying events, which take place in the fall semester,” she explains. “We hold an obstacle race and a selection evening with a series of mini-games. We also run weekly sports sessions and team-building events to create a sense of unity among the EPFL challengers.”
Connection and community
The EPFL-ETHZ Challenge is an annual snowsports competition first held in 1991. Besides the competitive aspect, the contest also aims to build a sense of connection and community, with students, professors, sponsors and former challengers from both schools gathering for a week-long program of events at a ski resort. “There can be as many as 400 people there,” says Tasev. “It’s like one big family. For instance, members of the 2013 organizing committee still turn up now, a decade later, proudly sporting their jacket bearing that year’s logo.”
Running an event of this scale is a daunting task for the committee members, who work long hours to make sure everything goes smoothly. In addition to dealing with logistical and organizational challenges, they sometimes have to think on their feet to make the event as enjoyable and memorable as possible. Fortunately, the role strikes just the right balance between fun and hard work. “You’ll sometimes see us performing dance routines on campus in our ski bibs,” says Tasev. “Some people make fun of us, but ridicule never killed anyone. It’s good to let your hair down every once in a while. I’d encourage everyone to give the Challenge a try. You won’t regret it!”
To sign up for the 2024 EPFL-ETHZ challenge, visit: https://challenge.swiss/.