Ki­wis soar on the snow

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el­come to win­ter 2014. This is my fourth sea­son as snow colum­nist for

It’s good to be back and I’m thrilled to re­flect on some great re­sults by New Zealand win­ter ath­letes dur­ing the north­ern sea­son.

A coat of white ap­par­ently blan­kets the South­ern Alps as I eke out the fi­nal few days of my usual brief sum­mer in the North­ern Hemi­sphere. Most ski fields are close to open­ing with Mt Hutt and Coronet Peak, as usual, leading the way.

Coronet Peak has been open since June 7 and Mt Hutt since June 13. Avalanche dam­age side­lined Mt Hutt’s triple chair in the mas­sive June storm last sea­son. For 2014, a ‘‘new look’’ triple with a stream­lined on-ramp im­proves flow onto the lift, al­low­ing it to run faster. New ter­rain parks will en­hance the trick reper­toire this sea­son, and Mt Hutt has main­tained its pop­u­lar 10-and-un­der ski-for-free deal.

Not to be out­done, Porters ( also dam­aged by an avalanche af­ter the storm that knocked out the Mt Hutt triple last year), has in­stalled state-of-the-art snow­mak­ing – im­prov­ing the snow­mak­ing ca­pac­ity by 20-30 per cent.

Porters has ramped up the kid­friendly op­tions – now of­fer­ing a 12-and-un­der ski-for-free deal. Cheap rid­ing for kids is al­ways avail­able at club fields. Tag them young.

This past north­ern sea­son served up plenty of ex­cite­ment, as Kiwi ath­letes roamed global win­ter sports events.

I’m com­pelled to men­tion an Ital­ian lu­natic who, in a fear­somely tight red suit, hit the unimag­in­able speed of 252.45kmh on skis. Less ter­ri­fy­ing, but mighty im­pres­sive, were re­sults com­ing in from Ki­wis at the Sochi Olympics and Par­a­lympics.

A team of 15 Olympic ath­letes com­peted in five sports.

Most sig­nif­i­cant were three top 10 fin­ishes in the men’s ski half­pipe, with Jossi Wells fourth, brother Beau-James Wells sixth and Lyn­don Shee­han ninth.

New Zealand’s top woman freeskier, Jan­ina Kuzma, fin­ished an ex­cel­lent fifth in the half­pipe. In the Par­a­lympics, sit-skier Corey Peters pulled off a fan­tas­tic sil­ver medal in his favoured event, the gi­ant slalom.

Peters had al­ready fin­ished fourth in the su­per-com­bined and sixth in su­per G in this, his first Par­a­lympics. Check out Peters’ run on YouTube. The man must have abs of steel.

Team-mate Adam Hall, look­ing to de­fend his gold medal from Van­cou­ver in the stand­ing slalom, placed fourth in the su­per com­bined, and snow­boarder Carl Mur­phy, com­pet­ing in the de­but sport of adap­tive snow­boarder cross, also placed fourth.

In other re­sults from Kiwi ath­letes abroad, Beau-James Wells, 19, had an out­stand­ing win in the freeski half­pipe at the ju­nior worlds. I’m es­pe­cially ex­cited for my young friend Finn Bilous, 14, of Wanaka, who placed fifth in the same event, then backed it with a sec­ond at the US ju­nior na­tion­als a cou­ple of weeks later.

His team-mate Miguel Por­te­ous, 14, of Christchurch, was sev­enth in the world ju­nior half­pipe and third in the US Ju­nior Na­tion­als. Watch these boys.

In my per­pet­ual quest for snow, I’ve checked neb­u­lous weather pre­dic­tions for the South Is­land this win­ter. Weather folks give lit­tle away but it seems that the South­ern Os­cil­la­tion in­dex re­mains neu­tral, mean­ing no El Nino or El Nina for the third year in a row. Metser­vice does in­di­cate a spring re­turn to El Nino con­di­tions. Moon Man Ken Ring (love him or not) pre­dicts a stormy July. I like that – let’s go with it.

Mt Cheese­man cun­ningly sched­ules it’s an­nual Ther­mat­ech Undie 500 for mid Septem­ber and, hope­fully, there are warmer tem­per­a­tures then for those who love to bare white flesh when it’s still of­fi­cially win­ter.

Look for film fes­ti­vals as they flick through var­i­ous towns – the an­nual NZ Moun­tain Film Fes­ti­val plays in Wanaka on July 4 and Queen­stown on July 10. If you miss those dates, look for the best of NZ Moun­tain Films in Grey­mouth on Au­gust 22, Arthurs Pass on Au­gust 29 and Cas­tle Hill Vil­lage on Septem­ber 6. War­ren Miller’s Ticket to Ride has a fi­nal show in Ar­row­town on July 10.

Al­ways de­liv­er­ing on good snow times, the folks at CHILL have their usual lineup of events. The Ju­nior Big Moun­tain and K2 Big Moun­tain com­pe­ti­tions through Au­gust are great places to check out big moun­tain ski­ing at Bro­ken River and Craigieburn Val­ley.

The youngest rid­ers can sam­ple freeride events at Chill’s Grom­fests – July 26 at Porters and Septem­ber 13 at Round­hill. Grom­fests are good fun with jumps, hot­dogs and lol­lies.

Have a great win­ter. Re­mem­ber – keep the wax side down!

Photo: REUTERS

High flyer: NewZealand’s Beau-James Wells com­pet­ing in the freestyle half­pipe fi­nals at the Sochi games. He came sixth.

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