Taking a leap of faith
Tauhara College student Hugo Cameron admits he thinks his mum Belinda worries “a little bit” about his choice of sport.
That's because the 18-yearold's idea of a good time on skis is jumping off cliffs and banks in a sport that values freedom over rules.
Hugo, a year 13 Tauhara College student, has been selected for the Snow Sports New Zealand's 2017 New Zealand Freeride Junior Team, representing his country at the World Championships in Europe in early 2018.
Hugo has been skiing since he was introduced to it as a preschooler by parents Fraser and Belinda. But it was when he discovered freeride skiing at the age of 12 he really got bitten. The boy who had been “relatively risk averse” as a child discovered a passion and aptitude for freeride skiing — jumping off cliffs in places that most skiers are at pains to avoid.
“I started competing which was a lot of fun and I just got hooked on it from there.”
Hugo says the appeal of freeriding is in the name.
“It's free. You can go up there and there's nobody telling you where you have to ski or what to do. You can make your own decisions and craft it to your kind of skiing and your strengths and I like being able to decide where I ski and how I ski it. There's a really nice culture around it, positive people, there's a lot of energy in the community.
“You go up up the mountain and they choose a slope somewhere that has cliffs and drops and lots of natural features and you're allowed to decide anywhere on that face where you want to jump off and do tricks off. There's a panel of judges that judge you based on things like speed, fluidity, your line choice, your air and style, control.”
Hugo travels around New Zealand to train and compete in the freeriding competition series. Although one competition is on Mt Ruapehu, most of the others are in the South Island. Each rider's final placing is determined by their top three results in the series.
Hugo was selected for the junior freeride team after a season competing in Europe at the beginning of this year as part of the unofficial New Zealand junior team. Along with three other riders he travelled between competitions in Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria and Andorra, snagging a couple of placings in Switzerland and Austria and having his best European season so far. His goal for this season is to do well in the New Zealand competition and be selected for the World Championships in Europe in February 2018.
Hugo says freeriding can be a little dangerous, but there are measures riders can take to protect themselves, including wearing avalanche gear, back protectors and helmets.
He says while his mother worries about his safety, his parents are also big supporters who have helped him make it in the sport.
Next year he plans to study for a law and arts degree at Canterbury University — closer to the snow — and continue to compete in freeriding.
Taupo freeride skier Hugo Cameron has been selected for the New Zealand Freeride Junior Team.