Fraser McDougall soaring above the Wilkin Valley

Athletes Fly High for Freestyle Day at World Heli Challenge

Lake Wanaka, NZ (12 August 2013) – Twenty-two elite skiers and snowboarders were treated to a over a foot of fresh powder and clearing skies today as the World Heli Challenge lifted off with a Freestyle Day on untapped terrain at Mt Turner in the Wilkin.  The athletes were flown from the Makarora Valley and made first descents on a new venue for the event, “As far as we know we are the first to ride this zone and the mix of natural features with a fresh delivery of snow made it an ideal pick for the Freestyle Day,” said event director Tony Harrington.

Fraser McDougall Freestyle Day World Heli Challenge

While the athletes put on a show using natural features to show off their freestyle prowess including double back flips, 720s, off axis rotations, and an amazing switch backside 360, a posse of ten photographers and filmers documented the day from take off to landing for the Canon Shootout.  Adding a touch of Hollywood to the action, a heli-mounted Shotover camera system flew just metres above the athletes capturing every trick and powder turn in 3D.

After a morning of low cloud the conditions cleared giving the skiers and boarders two runs each.

“Conditions were variable today with beautiful fresh powder at the top of the run, followed by grippy snow in the middle and then soft deep snow at the bottom, making it a challenge for the athletes.  Regardless, they still managed some fast, competent skiing and pulled off some technical tricks,” said head snowboard judge Mike Hygemann.

Head ski judge, Geoff Small agreed with Hygemann saying that, “Despite the challenging conditions the athletes managed to get in there and get the job done, with many throwing big over the first ridgeline.”  He added, “The kiwis definitely represented well and it was nice to have a mix of international athletes along to keep the locals honest.”

In addition to the on-venue judging the World Heli Challenge has developed a unique judging model that taps into an online panel of top judges around the globe who review each athlete’s line from long-lens footage.

The World Heli Challenge crew are reviewing the weather to find a suitable day and choose the terrain for the Extreme Day later this week.  Snowfall is expected tomorrow granting the athletes a well-deserved rest day when they plan to head to the west coast for an overnight followed by the annual surf day on Wednesday.

The World Heli Challenge culminates at the Lake Wanaka Centre on Thursday 22 August with the iON Showcase Awards and Canon Shootout. “The build up is intense and the athletes only find out who’s won on the night.  It’s one of the best parties of the season and the Canon Shootout makes it a winter film festival on steroids,” said Harro. “It’s a real buzz to bring all the highlights of the event together and to celebrate it with the community here in Wanaka.”  Tickets for the iON Showcase Awards night & Canon Shootout are $20 and available at The Board House and Racers Edge.

The World Heli Challenge is well supported by the regions leading helicopter and heliskiing operations as well as local landowners. Today’s event at Mt Turner was guided by Southern Lakes Heliski using their terrain.