Big Mountain Finals at NZ Free Ski Open
Sam Smoothy (NZE) was last night crowned king of the mountain, taking out top place in the Icebreaker Big Mountain heli-accessed finals as part of the Volkl New Zealand Free Ski Open in front of over 450 spectators at the public judging session in downtown Wanaka.
In an impressive field of international extreme skiers, Smoothy impressed his peers in the rider-judged event with an exposed line down the steep slopes of the Lake Hope region of The Remarkables. Conditions were outstanding with a bluebird day, gentle breeze and spectacular scenery overlooking Lake Wakatipu. The snow was varied, adding to the challenges of the day but Smoothy was the stand-out skier of the day, skiing by far the most technical line in an area not tackled by other competitors earning first prize of $1,000. Alistair Eason (NZE) took second just fractionally ahead of 16-year-old Fraser MacDougall (NZE) who skied beyond his years into third place.
The women’s Big Mountain title was a more closely fought affair with Australian Janina Kuzma just beating Jacobina Home (SCO) into first place by less than a point.
“All competitors skied strongly considering the varied conditions,” said head judge, Dion Newport, who oversaw the rider judging process. “They all appreciated the rider judging which helped give the less experienced riders a better understanding of what they need to do to improve their standing in future competitions.”
The finals took place over two runs each with a vertical drop of approximately 1,000 feet. The first run was over steep but rolling terrain with competitors able to inspect the course. The second was more intimidating with options for couloirs and cliff drops as well as steep open faces. Competitors could only sight their line from the helicopter before dropping in, adding to the technical challenge.
Snow sports enthusiasts filled BaseCamp Wanaka to capacity to watch the extreme skiing action on a giant screen suspended from the climbing wall and judge their favourite riders Kuzma also took out the People’s Choice Award while Smoothy missed out to local rider Frazer MacDougall. For further information, visit www.freeskier.co.nz