Tak­ing a leap of faith

Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - Lau­rilee McMichael

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.

Photo / Toby Gar­land

Taupo freeride skier Hugo Cameron has been se­lected for the New Zealand Freeride Ju­nior Team.

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