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