Outside of comp skiing, the biggest milestone this winter was working in my new role as head coach at Treble cone for freeride - a job that I have dreamed about since I left school - which went super well!
It is amazing to see how tight we are becoming, regardless of where we train!
Lastly, the icing on what has been a cake of a season!
Without a doubt, I covered more ground this northern hemisphere winter than ever before.
I worked out that my total accumulated travel (air, road, rail) from Wanaka --> The World --> Wanaka, was about 67,830km!
For reference, the distance around Earth is about 40,000km, from Vancouver to Auckland is about 11,000km, from Auckland to Queenstown is about 1,000km and I am only 1.79cm tall.
So if you think about it, that is 37,893 Sam Lee replicants lying end to end...
Which is an entirely pointless way to try and visualise distance, but the idea makes me laugh!
In short, I covered a lot of ground in 3 months.
After a huge winter, it feels good to be home in Wanaka, right back into gym training and preparation for the NZ winter, including organising the Treble Cone Freeride Programme!
It was amazing to ski in so many different parts of the world, although next year I'll do a few less side missions!
To finally set foot in Japan was the highlight of my travels, I have always wanted to go there.
The Pow was legendary, the people welcoming, and the general
Japan-ness of Japan was a totally new and incredible experience!
I was pretty inspired by the place when I first arrived and I made the tune below, ideally listen with headphones or speakers as the bass is usually lost on laptop speakers! -
Following my travel highlight, comes the best day of the season, which was a few days before the FWT stop in Andorra, (also my favourite comp run of the season)
I'm not sure what it was, but the whole FWT family was going 100% that day!
When it comes to my comp season, I felt like it was a bit hit and miss this year.
All too often I was making mistakes and not quite nailing it.
Although I was on point during my runs in Andorra and Kicking Horse, which I am proud of!
Initially, I couldn't understand how I could be dropping the ball so much in competition, when I had also been skiing better than ever before in the lead up.
Eventually, through some fairly heavy self analysis, I realised a few things.
Firstly, in light of an exceptional 2017 season, I figured I had finally mastered freeride, and therefore set my competition goals and expectations much higher than before.
As it turned out, I was aiming too high, and the pressure of my expectations filled me with the stress of placing high and I lost sight of the excitement of skiing as a way to express myself.
In addition to that, when I was setting my goals, I never considered that while I was improving, so was everyone else.
I am starting to understand that moving between top 10s and top 5s in a world tour event is a massive step, and that as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes it comes down to luck, good or bad.
The whole crew pushed the level way up this season, and I have to say that although initially I felt like I under achieved, when I take a step back and broaden my view, I realised that I am doing pretty well to be in the mix at all.
A few seasons before qualifying for the FWT, I remember thinking, "I'd be happy with one season on tour, and maybe I will call it after one anyway!" This was at a time when I was pretty sure it would take me at least 5 or 6 more years to qualify, if it were to happen at all!
That pretty much means anything after my rookie season is bonus points!
Having the opportunity to live the life I do is something I am mighty grateful for, although occasionally, as was the case this season, I become disillusioned as a result of putting too much pressure on myself, and my expectations and fears start driving the bus.
Expectations and fears are narrow sighted, and should never be trusted with a bus.
Every now and then I look back on photos and videos from my earlier years of competing, or I read an old blog, and I remember my passion and love for skiing, which is the only reason I keep nudging this thing along.
Passion and love are much better bus drivers, because they remind you to look out the side windows and appreciate the journey, instead of blindly pushing on to the final destination.
Qualifying for my 3rd FWT season in a row is something I never imagined, and I am super proud to make it to this point!
Thanks again to all of my family, friends and sponsors and everyone who helped me out this season.
You guys are pretty cool.
The title of this blog pretty accurately sums up the trend of competition this season so far.
It started with a pretty mellow hurry up and wait in Japan, followed by a manic two comps back to back in Kicking horse, a sequence which was effectively repeated once we arrived in Europe, with delays causing Andorra to run late and Fieberbrunn happening only 3 days after.
We knew pretty early on that the competition in Andorra wasn't going to happen until close to the end of the window, so ultimately it ended up being a chance to go skiing and enjoy the company of friends.
Which was much needed after the pretty hectic few weeks prior.
Having a few rad days riding hard with no real schedule reminded me why I love skiing and had me super motivated to compete, so when it was finally time to push out the gate I was full of excitement and enthusiasm for the run I was about to ski.
I skied my line pretty much exactly to plan with some big drops, a flip, an accidental grab (which I don't remember doing), all clean landings and finished 7th!
It is a result that I am really proud of because on this day everyone was apparently inspired by the recent falcon heavy launch (sending hard but also landing real smoooooth).
- by the way, everyone should watch that, the way those boosters land is mesmerising.
I think Andorra is my favourite stop on the tour.
The thing I love most is the abundance of food in hotel Coma, and the ease of acquiring it, although there are plenty of other reasons why Andorra is a good jam.
I guess more than anything, after blasting around the world for a couple of months on a pretty tight schedule it was nice to come back to somewhere familiar and have some time to think again.
Andorra was the scene of my first two FWT competitions last year, both of which went really well, so the place already holds a lot of good memories.
Plus, Hotel Coma parties are the best!
Following a pretty mellow entry into Andorra, things became manic once again and we learned that the weather was about to turn to shit in Austria. The only clear day in the foreseeable future was for Friday, the first day of the weather window, and the prediction was that if it didn't run on day one, then it probably wouldn't run at all.
That left us with 2 days between the competitions in Andorra and Fieberbrunn.
Elisabeth Gerritzen, Yann Rausis, Marion Hearty and I skipped town straight after the prize giving in Andorra and drove straight to Verbier arriving at 3:30 am on Wednesday.
We skied that day, then left early on Thursday arriving in Fieberbrunn at 3 pm and inspected the venue until about 5:30 pm.
We kicked things off on Friday with a 5:00 am wake up, and finally competed in the most important and high pressure event of the season! CRUNCH TIME.
At this point, I was sitting in 9th place on the season ranking, and I knew that I needed to place 10th or higher at Fieberbrunn to be sure of qualifying for Verbier and FWT 2019.
I planned a line that I thought would put me into the top 10, and then decided that I wasn't content with just placing 10th, so I completed the plan with one final long air, which initially I didn't consider to be difficult.
I skied the whole top section of my run pretty well, but came into my last air a little loose and was bucked backseat on takeoff by an unexpected bump, I wasn't able to regain balance and crashed as a result.
Basically I cooked it.
With only 3 skiers to go I was outside of the cut, until Michael Bimboes dropped in and put down the winning run, which pulled me back into 13th, where I stayed!
This means that by two top ten results and some bloody good luck at Fieberbrunn I am now safely qualified for the finals in Verbier and also for FWT 2019, for my third season on tour!
I am unbelievably happy and relieved to have qualified, waiting for confirmation at the bottom of the venue was hell stressful.
I am now in Verbier for the rest of the season and I am super excited for the FWT final which is happening here in a couple of weeks!
This happened straight after the competition was finished and before the prize giving, Borjas friends skied the face and spread his ashes before skiing into the finish line where we were all gathered, each of us holding a rose.
Borjas wife then sent him of with a final few words, it was pretty tough to watch, although I still feel that the day was an awesome way to honour the life of a mountain person.
The start of this year has been nuts!
Somehow, it is March already and this is the first to blog post I have been able to get out!
Usually, writing gives me the opportunity to reflect on the things I have done as I move along, and it helps me to learn and move forward.
This season has been weird though, I have travelled to so many countries and moved around so often that the logistics have been so time consuming it has been far more productive to just focus on social media.
I've been away from NZ for over two months and it feels more like two weeks!
Since leaving Wanaka on the 28th of December I have trained in Revelstoke, Canada for a couple of weeks, competed in the Revelstoke FWQ4*, Travelled to Japan for the first FWT stop which was unfortunately postponed, bounced back to Revy for 2 days, competed in FWT Kicking Horse, as well as FWT Japan (re-staged in Kicking Horse the following day), travelled to Whistler to hang with my folks for 2 days, flown to Austria to grab skis and boots, trained in Verbier for 5 days, competed in the Jasna FWQ4* in Slovakia and finally made my way to Andorra.
I am full nomad at the moment, and maybe biting off a bit too much..
In another post, I'll review the first 4 comps of my winter, which is actually as useful to me as it is to anyone. The most interesting bits are that after a happy 10th at the first stop and a pretty messy 14th at the second stop I am sitting right on the bubble in 13th place. It’s a solid spot to be in, although I will still need to work to hold my position to qualify for the final in Verbier!
Currently, I am in the Hotel Coma (best hotel ever) in Ordino, Andorra, hanging out with the crew waiting to compete in the third stop of Freeride World Tour 2018.
We have been here for almost a week now waiting for weather and snow conditions to line up.
Sadly, last Thursday while working to secure the venue, two of the FWT guides were buried in an avalanche, which ended in the death of the local guide Borja Ayed Capillas.
It sucks to lose people in the mountains, especially considering the situation, and it feels strange to have something like this happen on tour.
My thoughts go out to Borjas family and friends.
It's a harsh reminder of the potential dangers of the environment we work and play in.
With all of this in mind, the organisation took a few down days in respect of Borja and also to reassess conditions. It feels odd to just move on, but that's what we do, and honestly, it feels like a fitting tribute to a mountain guide, to send out the best freeriders in the world to light up a face!
Speaking for myself, mind you, that is what I would want, so I hope my opinion is shared.
In the last couple of days, we have had some additional snow and it all seems to be setting up nicely, so we are now aiming to compete tomorrow, Tuesday!
Following on from an awesome first year on the tour in 2017, I have certainly felt the weight of self expectation this year after a fairly up and down start to the comp season. That had a pretty big effect on my head game during the Jasna FWQ, and had me feeling pretty anxious about Andorra.
But fear not, the stoke is back!
Since arriving here, I have finally had some time to chill and reset and I feel like I am back to normal, which has me excited for the event!
The magic sauce appears to be the consistency of what and when I am eating and sleeping, some super good chats to friends and family as well as the most important thing of all, a few really productive high energy days of ripping around Valnord Arcallis with the crew!
The support I get from all of you and everyone following my movements is super cool!
2017 was an absolute hoot, and I am super excited for what 2018 has in store!
Currently, I am in Revelstoke in Canada. After having a super good run of hot weather and sun at home in Wanaka, I drifted into town a couple of days before New Year's Eve and lucked out big time with my arrival lining up perfectly with the first storm in a while!
My first day on snow was pretty rad!
After exploring some of the old lines I frequented back in 2012 I remember why I love riding here!
It's basically a big treasure hunt for hidden pillow zones and steep goat lines, with a few big cliffs in the mix as well.
The video below gives a good look into how things went on day one!
My plan from now on is to hang here for another week to compete in the Revelstoke FWQ 4* event which is happening this Wednesday and Thursday.
I'm going into this one as a warm-up for the first stop of the Freeride World Tour in Hakuba, Japan running between the 18th and 27th of January!
I have a feeling the locals will be geared up for some big, hammer-time lines, so it should be a pretty exciting event!
The best part is that a storm rolled in again yesterday, and it is currently dumping outside, so conditions should be pretty much on point for the comp!
I'm still pinching myself at the idea of being back on the World Tour for the second year, and to be honest, I am just as nervous as I was last year!
I've been jumping lots since I arrived here, and I feel like I am pretty much back up to speed with skiing, so I guess, whatever happens, it's just another weird road trip around the world doing stunts!
Time to have some fun!!
Here is an edit from when I first came to Revy in 2012 - I love looking back on this one, and it is still up there in my top 3 seasons to date!
Mid September already.. faaaar out, when did that happen?
A little over a week ago the Frontier FWQ 4* (NZ Open #neverforget) went down at the Remarkables.
The event rolled through in true NZ freeride fashion, with an unbelievably well timed storm that saw the venue go from ice skating rink to wind loaded powdery love story.
After using the full weather window we competed on the last possible day, with the next snow storm setting in right as the last rider finished his run.
The organisers did an excellent job running the event smoothly in such a tight window and it was well worth the effort.
I am stoked on the line I skied, I always try to find something different to what I have skied in the past, because it keeps things interesting!
I put together a few features which I have never looked at before, as well as a couple of classics and although I was fairly untidy in the air and a on few landings, it was a good enough show to slot me into 2nd place, just in front of young gun Matt Sweet (fresh off the JR tour) and behind Hank Bilous, who nailed a pretty huge run containing a bunch of spins and burly airs.
The rest of the crew let loose and went full hoon, skiing some never befores, including a standout long jump (Loooooooong jump) by the Frenchman Sebastien Varlet, which I initially didn’t think was a goer, and have since realised is pure insane genius, despite the huge backslap. The man is a mad scientist, and one to watch.
I’m totally rapt on the result! This sets me up really well for the FWQ season, which I will use a backup alongside the the FWT to give myself the best chance of re qualifying for FWT 2019.
And the best bit of the day was landing 7 kiwis on the podium across all categories, and all in the events first season as part of the NZ Winter Games!
NZ freeride, how the bloody hell are ya!
Official competition wrap up:
1st – Hank Bilous (NZL)
2nd – Sam Lee (NZL)
3rd – Matthew Sweet (NZL)
1st – Laia Castellarnau Plaza (ESP)
2nd – Jessica Hotter (NZL)
3rd – Anna Smoothy (NZL)
1st – Maria Kuzma (NZL)
2nd – Manuela Mandl (AUT)
3rd – Nuria Castán Barón (ESP)
1st – Roland Morley-Brown (NZL)
2nd – Christopher Galvin (USA)
3rd – Stephen Denmark (USA)
The final competition of FWT 2017 happened at Verbier last week. It was an honour to compete on the Bec des Rosses and I am super happy to have placed 5th on the day and 6th in the overall FWT17 ranking!
I picked my line because it was the first thing that stuck out to me as something genuinely fun to ride, so I pretty much knew from the start that I was doing it, regardless of how it would score. It looked too fun to miss!
The best part was that It allowed me to ski in the way I enjoy most which is technical, tight, steep and full of features, with a couple of decent airs in the mix.
Interestingly, I learned afterwards that I am the first person to ski the major part of my line in competition, and possibly ever.
I asked the judges if I could name it, they said yes, so I suggested "Dogs Balls". Because to me it stands out like dogs balls - it's an expression from back home that suggests something really sticks out or is very obvious.
Who knows if it will stick!
The whole event was awesome and the podium runs in all categories were sick!
With the Xtreme marking the final event of the FWT, the world champions have been crowned and each one absolutely deserves their world title, those guys and girls are seriously inspiring.
I'm gonna put it out there and say that this season has been the best one I have experienced by far.
It was fun in pretty much every way, new mates, blue bird comps, awesome travels, new tricks, the best parties and some top notch skiing! Even though North America hogged all the snow.. but whatever, I'm from NZ.
Through Freeriding I have met and made friends with some amazing people. All of them super motivated, genuine and a little unusual in their own ways.
Basically, a bunch of people who think being sensible is a bit boring.
It's been great sharing the stress and excitement of freeride competition with this crew and I am forever grateful to have had this opportunity to try and make a life out of what I think of as basically being a kid all the time. Hopefully I can keep it up!
When I look back on my competition season I feel like I exceeded my own expectations as far as results and personal improvement and I'm absolutely stoked on skiing right now.
I am sad to leave Europe this year, but I am excited for FWT18!
Until then, I'll be spending my time coaching kids in the winter at Cardrona and packing in bulk activities and adventures in the southern alps!
Thanks to all you cool cats who helped out - my family, my friends and my sponsors and especially Charlotte, Tom, Adele and Kim for letting me sleep on your floor heaps.
Alaska, the dreamland of Freeriders. Full on mythical, with like, minotaurs and stuff. You wouldn't believe it.
Having the opportunity to compete in Haines was amazing, and I am bloody rapt to have skied well enough to finish in 3rd place!
By far the best result I have ever had.
Initially, the idea of landing a podium in my rookie season seemed unlikely, and honestly, when I left Europe my plan for Alaska was to push for the top 10.
However, once I saw the venue and started to think more about my line I realised I really had nothing to gain by skiing safe, I was already qualified for Verbier and FWT 2018, so why not just send it and try for the podium!
Skiing in Alaska was everything I hoped it would be, the competition venue was epic, and the surrounding mountains even more so. Now that I have had a taste, I will be back.
I am still coming to terms with the idea that this all actually happened because the whole concept of competing in Haines is so wild!
Yesterday was my first day back in Verbier and it was spent power lapping the park in the slush and practicing my stunts!
There are now only a couple of days left until the grand finale of the FWT, the Verbier Extreme to be held on the Bec des Rosses. Probably the most intimidating competition venue I can imagine.
Although I plan to go out and give it my all, the motivation for this comp is definitely focussed more on the personal achievement of nailing a run on such a nuts face, rather than aiming for any specific result.
If I can ski fluid and in control with a few good senders and make it to the bottom feeling like I have had fun then I will be happy!
Also in other news, The last FWQ 4* of the European season happened in Obergurgl while we were in Haines, and I am so stoked to see Kiwi young gun Craig Murray cleaning it up and winning the comp! And with a badass line at that.
This means that Craig has qualified for FWT 2018!
The dude is talented, and it is going to be great having a second New Zealander on tour.
After a really fun week in Verbier sending a few big cliffs and riding in some new areas, I travelled up to Austria to compete in the Open Faces FWQ 3* at Silvretta Montafon.
After having a fair amount of downtime post-Andorra, my goal for the comp was to try and find a pretty simple line with some big airs in it to keep my head in the game for the next FWT stop in Fieberbrunn.
The day before I left Verbier, I managed to find some great stuff to jump off while filming with Charlotte Percle for our FWT Rookies project. That was an excellent warm up for the comp and I was able to ski pretty much the exact kind of line that I had imagined.
I stuck to the plan of simple and picked three main cliffs with a small booter in the middle.
I was mostly focussed on nailing the last two airs, as they were the biggest and most technical, so I skied pretty casually between features.
Although I moved a bit slower than I really wanted, I am super happy with the drops and I am feeling great for FWT stop 3!
Below is the replay of my run, it was posted in slowmo so if you want to see it in regular speed you will need to click the settings icon (the little gear in the bottom right of the video) and change the speed to 2.
On a side note, while I was in Verbier I had an unexpected link up in Verbier with Drew Peterson, a friend I last saw in the U.S in 2013 when we were competing together on the American FWQ circuit.
He had just finished filming in Kyrgyzstan and figured he'd drop by Switzerland for his first time riding in the Alps.
While he was in town we skied a few areas that were new to me on the backside of Mt Fort, under guidance of locals Yann Rausis and Adrien Hildebrandt. We also had the opportunity to climb and ski the famous Bec des Rosses (The comp face for the FWT grand final) with Kiwi freeriders, Sam Smoothy and Craig Murray.
The Bec is truly an amazing face and until skiing it I never realised how bloody steep the top section is!
It is safe to say the mountains in this part of the world are amazing!
Charlotte Percle nailing the film game in Verbier!
I first travelled to Andorra 3 years ago in 2014 to compete in an FWQ 4*. Going back has been on the to-do list ever since, and to do it as part of the FWT has been a dream.
Since the postponement at Chamonix, I have been itching to get things rolling, so it was refreshing to turn up and compete straight away in the Andorra stage where I finished in 8th, and to follow it with 4th place at the Chamonix stop re-staged in Andorra a few days later was perfect!
The goal for this season was to finish in the top 10 a couple of times and see if I could qualify for the second half of the tour in Alaska and Verbier.
The first stop was pretty damn nerve wracking, I am stoked with the way I skied although I knew that I could have spiced things up a little more, so when it came to the second stop I figured I could afford to put a little more on the line, hence the backflip at the top of the venue!
Funnily enough, the flip was the only thing I was really certain of, settling on the rest of my line took a bit more work.
So far after two comps I am sitting in 7th place in the rankings, tied with Reine Barkered!
This puts me in a really good position and as far as I can tell, qualifying for Alaska looks damn near sure.
That means I can have more fun at Feiberbrunn!
If you asked me 5 years ago if I thought I'd be on tour with a couple of top ten results by age 25, I would have said not likely.
I figured if everything went well I could make the FWT by the time I was 27 or 28, saying that it's an old man's game.
And I was prepared to work at it until then, so to have it all happen so soon is wild!
The FWT family is super cool, and I am stoked that I can experience the madness first hand.
I often imagined myself being part of the circus when I was little, and on some level I feel like this is pretty damn close!
Next I will head to the FWQ 3* at Montafon this weekend, It is on the way to Fieberbrunn making it a great opportunity to practice and maybe try some new stuff before FWT stop 3!
It’s been almost one month since I landed in Europe, and things have been moving so fast it feels like I'm strapped to the front of a train.
The plan is in motion and I am still so grateful to have the opportunity to give the FWT a nudge.
I have always had goals and a solid idea for the direction I want to move, but right now I feel like my head is clearer and the steps necessary to improve are more obvious.
It is awesome to be skiing with so much purpose!
This year I am once again basing myself in Verbier, and I am stoked to be a Verbier rider throwing out the good word for one of the coolest freeride resorts around.
My winter actually started in Montafon, Austria, another super fun resort which I will definitely be spending more time at in the future.
It is full of rad cliffs, wind lips and other junk that can be lapped quickly from the lifts. This has since made me realise that hot lapping zones over and over is my favourite way to ride.
I was also pretty lucky to time my first day on skis with the first snow storm in a while.
By the end of the week, the pow was mega, which allowed me to spend some time in the air, jumping big cliffs and practicing tricks.
Next I hot stepped down to Verbier, for a week of riding choppy snow and dodging sharks. That switched my mind back onto ski technique and had me feeling like I was back up to speed with my skiing, after floating around in deep Austrian pow.
Feeling pretty top notch on the twigs, I met up with Yann, Carl and Elisabeth (the other FWT rookies from Europe) and we headed to Chamonix for the first stop of the FWT.
Unfortunately the lack of snow in all of the potential Cham venues meant the event had to be postponed, it will now run in Andorra a few days before the official FWT stop at Valnord Arcallis.
Even though we didn’t compete, we kept busy with an ISTA snow safety day, a bit of skiing and an impromptu day of ski touring to scope a potential venue.
The next move saw a group of us travel over to Les Arcs a couple of days early in preparation for the FWQ 4*.
The planets aligned once again and we had a small dump of fresh snow on Monday and Tuesday, which set up the venue well for the comp on Thursday.
Even with the new snow, the venue was still full of barely covered rocks, just sitting there waiting to snag you right in the livelihood.
I skied one of the most fun runs of my life with a bunch of big drops and the first backflip I have sent in a comp. I placed 2nd with a score of 88 and that included hip checking the snow after landing on rocks, which would have cost me a fair amount of points.
It feels pretty awesome to nail a podium this early in the season, and although it feels weird, I am stoked to be able to score so highly even with a mistake.
After a bit of pow riding in Verbier I am now on my way to Andorra with the other Euro Rookie skiers for FWT stops 1 and 2!
Or.. I've arrived... depending on which way you look at it.
After a mega cool spring/summer in NZ packed with training hard, playing in the wilderness, and huck loads of flips, I am back in the European Alps getting ready for the first day of what I expect to be the rowdiest winter of my life to date.
So far the plan is to hit eight to nine competitions in three months, ranging from Freeride World Tour stops to Freeride World Qualifier four star events. That pretty much works out at one a week from the end of Jan until April.
Basically, I figured that if I am already jumping into the deep end (FWT) why not just swim in the ocean!
Oddly, I am still afraid of swimming in deep water, ever since seeing Starwars Ep1 as a kid "There is always a bigger fish" - Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Good thing I'm a skier.
This is a rough itinerary of the places I will be, with about a week in each place:
Montafon - Verbier - Chamonix - Les Arcs - Val Nord Arcallis - Verbier - Sogndal - Jasna - Fieberbrunn - Verbier - Haines (If I am in the top 12 in FWT after Feiberbrunn) Verbier - Unknown - NZ
Also, I've added a couple of new supporters to the family.
Seeing as it is fairly central to all my travels, Verbier is going to be where I do most of my training between comps.
The next is MyPakage NZ , who have hooked me up with what could be the finest undies I have ever worn- https://mypakage.nz/
See Instagram post for more on budgies:
RIP the NZ Open...
Welcome, the Frontier!
This year the NZ Open became the Frontier, and with it a shiny new FWQ FOUR STAR rating!
That's a really big deal for a little country at the bottom of world, and it presents an amazing opportunity for Kiwi skiers to get the ball rolling in their efforts to qualify for the Freeride World Tour.
It's pretty hard trying to roll that ball uphill, into the wind, with no shoes from the bottom of the world to the top, so we'll take all the help we can get!
I think it is a cool move forward and FRONTIER is a pretty badass name. Although if I'm honest, I'm still a little sad to see the NZ Freeski Open lose its name. No I'm not crying, my sentimental glands are just flaring up...
The NZ Open is the event that stoked me out on freeride and helped me set my goals as a younger skier. It's history is rich with the names of the maddest mad dogs in NZ skiing and I have wanted to stand on top of the podium since my first time competing as a 17 year old.
This year it finally worked out! I nailed a fast and pretty aggressive line and to my surprise came away with 1st place!
I wasn't expecting the top spot because half way down my run I changed to plan B, I had planned to do a long, weird jump clearing a shelf but I lost my nerve when I was approaching it. So I was feeling a bit disappointed with my lack of balls when I came through the finish line.
The snow conditions in the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables were a bit of everything, from skied out chalk, to old powder; it was classic NZ skiing.
As usual people were shooting for the moon and the whole crew was stoked!
A few new lines were skied In ways I haven't seen before, namely Michael Strauss line which was super creative, even though his last air didn't work out to plan. Charles Murray also impressed with a maaaassive gap.
I am stoked to have been able to share the podium with Konstantin Ottner (2nd), who skied like a boss sending a huge backflip and Andrew Wylie (3rd) whose ski race roots showed clearly in a high speed, edges gripped line with a big last air!
The womens ski podium was all talent as well. Fellow FWT 2017 rookie Elisabeth Gerritzen skied aggressive and clean to take out the top spot, Head rider and Cardrona ski school work mate Laia Castellarnau picked up second place with her usual solid skiing and Jess Hotter took out third while rocking full stoke and an old school pink sweater.
Check out the official comp edit for a insight into how the day went https://www.facebook.com/TheNorthFaceFrontier/videos/1185368164838469/
Cheers for the day team!
New Zealand aye?
I hear that in New Zealand there is no snow on the mountains, and that people ski on sheep.
I hear that in New Zealand the price of a pie at a ski field is more than an arm and a leg, so people just take arms and legs for lunch.
I hear that in New Zealand, the queue for the lift starts at the bottom of the mountain road, so "You'd better not bloody pass me on the drive up or I'll fight you in the car park" -- Jerry.
I love it here, and each season I realise it more.
After a few years of exploring ski towns in Europe and America I still feel like the Southern Alps are my home.
The season so far has been amazing, and busy as ants!
For me it started with unusually early snow and a pre season 12 hour ski touring adventure up to the top of the St Bathans range with Scott Palmer, a trip we tried last year but couldn't complete due to poor snow conditions.
Having that under the belt made the next few weeks of rain and melting snow pack bearable.
This year I have been ski instructing 2 days a week at Cardrona as well as coaching High Performace Centre (HPC) freeride kids for the other 3 days a week. It is a great job and something I have been working toward for the last few years.
It is really cool to be involved in the development of the next group of kiwi freeriders, these kids are rich with talent and their enthusiasm for playing in the mountains is contagious!
In terms of my own personal development regarding teaching I'm back on the Level 3 training buzz, and will sit my exam later in the season.
Although I have been working more up the mountain with less time for ride breaks, my days off have been super productive on the side of freeride training, even with the slow start to the season, and especially since the snow really started to fall.
I have been working hard on my backflips whenever I get the chance, and I've been getting way better at throwing them off cliffs, which is all prep for my goal of sneaking one into a competition!
Coming up in the next few weeks are the two comps I'll do in NZ, the North Face Frontier FWQ 4* and the Mount Olympus Freeride Open FWQ 2* presented by my outerwear sponsor Marmot.
I am stoked to head to Olympus to compete again, since the Chill Series disappeared a few years ago I haven't made it up to Canterbury. Competing at the club fields is a key part of NZ Freeride and thanks to Dion Newport and all that have helped him we have an FWQ event there again as well as a New Zealand junior freeride tour.
Powder days at Treble Cone are an amazing thing. Usually it takes about half the day for the Saddle basin to open, and seeing as the saddle is where the magic happens, frothers and powder hounds will line up for at least 30 mins in the hopes of scoring first chair.
When the rope drops, chaos ensues as the Saddle Opening Chinese Downhill gets under way. Anyone who has been there knows how mad it can be, and I for one love the madness!
This is me scoring 2nd chair on a mad dog pow day mid July.
For those who missed the joke, The intro scene and voice over/song is from a classic American ski movie called Hot Dog.
It's funny as, and a must see for anyone interested in snow sports,
Ive been back in NZ for two weeks now and it is so good to be home. Skiing in Europe is awesome and I love the adventure of it, but it is full on travelling from comp to comp almost week for week. So it's refreshing to get back home and into some other stuff, like bush missions!
Here is my season edit:
My season had an awesome and unexpected ending with me qualifying into the Freeride World Tour for 2017. That also means ticking off the biggest goal I have had as a freerider. Picking a new highest goal to work towards is interesting. Currently I am just stoked to have the chance to compete, and I guess a pretty good goal is to try and cement myself on the tour for the future.
What ever happens it will still be a badass road trip!
Here is the official news item from Freeride World Tour - http://freerideworldtour.com/news/2016-season-wrap
I am back into a full on fitness training programme now with 3 strength sessions a week in the gym plus two aerobic session. I am aiming to do some more touring during NZ winter, as well as more hiking in the off season. Basically I want to be as strong as possible by the end of the year so I can stomp lots of big cliffs in the Northern Hemi!
NZ winter is drawing in now, and I am getting excited for another busy one. I'll be working at Cardrona again as a ski instructor, and I have a bunch of missions I want to do.
The most exciting thing is that the NZ Open Big Mountain has had a bit of re branding and is now an FWQ 4 star event!
That means big points up for grabs at the bottom of the world, and If we are lucky we might get to play with some new terrain! IF we are lucky.
Check out the SSNZ news item here - https://www.snowsports.co.nz/latest-news/welcome-to-a-new-frontier/
I am extremely grateful to all my sponsors and to everyone else who has helped me chase this goose so far, she's a hard one to catch, but I'm gaining! So thanks team!
I finally managed to win a comp in Europe!
Standing on the top of a Euro podium has been on my to do list for aaaages, and it finally happened at the Axamer Lizum 3* last weekend!
As an extra "20% more in every pack" kind of bonus, I got to share the podium with Kiwi freeride big dog, Neil Williman, who came in and grabbed 3rd place in his first comp of the season! Neil competed on the FWT for a number of years and is one of the guys who has inspired me over the last few years.
The face at Axamer is pretty interesting.
It is steep and technical for a short time up the top with only a limited number of entries before it opens out a bunch into the mid section with cliff like features decreasing by the bottom.
It was also pretty boney in places with a bunch of previously exposed sharp rocks being covered by a small dump of snow the night before the comp.
My top cliff was one of the first things I spotted when I saw the face. It caught my attention as the most interesting top feature I could see, I was into it in a big way.
It had a pretty technical entrance to air into a sort of walled in section of snow that no one else skied. I landed it smoothly and the rest of my run was made up of quick skiing on a ridge with 3 more airs. I found it quite hard to pick an awesome bottom section, and after my run I didn't think I had done enough because my bottom air was quite a bit smaller than a lot of others.
The judges were stoked on my top cliff because it was unique and creative which meant it scored really well, and in combination with a few more features and clean skiing to the finish it was enough to pick up the win.
Here is the video of my run:
Follow this link to see the full replay:
This result puts me back into 3rd place in the Europe-Oceania rankings.
So now everything is going to be riding on the next and final comp of the season, the Obergurgl 4*.
This year only 3 ski men will qualify for FWT from each region, 6 in total between the 2 regions.
To be sure that I stay in the top 3 I will need to place 2nd or higher, but there is still a chance that I could get in with a 3rd or even 4th place, depending on how the others in the top 8 or 9 end up on the day.
So my goal now is to go for it and get on the podium!
The evening after Axamer Lizum I travelled to Italy to do another 3* the next day in Cortina, along with a bunch of other competitors.
I turned up expecting a big day after seeing 130 riders confirmed on the start list on line.
What I found instead was that the organisers had allowed a further 50 local wild cards into the event.
That brought the total riders to 180. ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY!!
The comp started at about 10:00am and must have finished after 5:00pm.
Everyone had to be heli lifted to the top before about 1pm, and by the time I dropped in as bib 154, it was something like 4:15pm.
Long story short, by the time it was my turn to drop I had no energy and was screwing up doing pretty basic turns. I pretty much threw in the towel and skied out without jumping anything of note, purely because I felt like to try and put a good run down would be a dangerous move. I finished 83rd ski male...
For me it was a waste of time.
All I learned from the experience is that 180 people on a variable snow venue makes me want to say a lot of very bad words, loudly.
I think the title sums this one up pretty well.
Chandolin is a really cool place, it has some of the longest T-bars and Pomas I have ridden and some of the most playful terrain I have skied since I have been in Europe.
It is totally stacked with good looking cliffs, wind lips, and more quick and dirty technical lines than you could shake a Scot Shmidt at.
The venue is right smack in the middle of said dirty tech.
So its sort of right up my alley, as I am a big fan of getting into tight spots.
The format was a run on each of two days, both runs count.
I picked a technical double in some steep exposure.
I skied into the zone OK but did everything in slow motion.
I landed the line but pulled a massive power slide in the run out which must have been judged as a as a loss of control, even though I stayed on my feet. I think if I had done a better job with planing my runout I could have come away better than the 20th place after day 1.
It pretty much meant I had no chance of a top five heading into day two.
In the end I decided to use the second day as a training comp to try something new.
I picked some more obvious big airs down the main chute with a plan to 360 the first and backflip the last.
I spun the first cliff, and although the rotation was pretty close to right I landed funny and lost my uphill ski and crashed, ending my run with a no score.
All up I placed 40th. This comp definitely taught me a few things about my approach and I am all the time learning from my runs. Even though I am disappointed with how things went I am glad I had the opportunity to try something new, that is the first time I have spun in a comp and all things considered it went OK. I will be training more spins out of competition as I think I am starting to ski in a way that can really benefit from a bit of freestyle!
The Nendaz Freeride the other weekend was a hell of a time, I qualified through to the finals in 23rd place with only 24 making the cut out of a total field of 60 ski men.
I had a mega fun time skiing my line in the finals and came away with 5th place!
The rest of the kiwi crew also had some good results, with Maria Kuzma in 2nd in Women Snowboard, Hank Bilous 6th Men Ski and Anna Smoothy qualifying for finals but unfortunately loosing a ski to a shark while skiing into her second air, which put her in 9th place overall.
This is a huge result for me, as well as being the first time I have placed top 5 in an international FWQ 4* competition I consider this to be the best line I have skied in any comp I have done. An even more significant point is that it marks exactly 2 years since I crashed in the qualification day of the same competition, badly injuring my knee - a ruptured ACL and torn Meniscus resulted in 2 separate surgeries and 10 months of rehab.
The way back from knee injury is one that a huge amount of skiers both competitive and recreational experience.
It takes a lot of patience and a fair amount of commitment, and for some a lot of money depending on where you are from.
As a New Zealander I was very lucky, our health care system is great and with the support of the ACC (accident compensation corporation) I was able to spend 10 months post injury totally focused on getting fixed and strong. Having that time to recover without stress or worry for money was only possible with the support of the ACC and especially my family. It was a huge opportunity and making the most of that has paid off.
I have been waiting to send it on that face since the first time I saw it in 2014. Last year I had a taste when I qualified for the finals on the tail end of my rehab. I skied a mellow line and kept within what my knee could handle, but I also spent a lot of time looking at the various parts of the line I wanted to ski this year.
Immediately after the event this result along with 2nd at the NZ Open 3* and 6th at Jasna Adrenalin 4* had me sitting in 4th overall on the FWQ and 2nd in my region which is Europe-Oceania.
Since this weekend where a bunch of 3* events happened, I have been bumped down to 10th overall and 6th in my region, although I am still in the running.
With one more FWQ 4* event in both America and Europe as well as two more 3* stops things will likely change significantly by the end of the season. If I want to ensure I am one of the top 3 Europe-Oceania riders to qualify for the FWT I will probably need to win a 3* and a 4* although it still could be possible to scrape through with less.
It's getting pretty exciting, it looks like any of the skiers in the top 10 on the ranking has the potential to be in the top 3 by the end of the season.
So that pretty much means - Send it Jerry!
After my injury Lachlan Humphreys approached me with the idea to make a short film documenting my accident and the rehab process which would eventually come to an end with me competing in the New Zealand Open FWQ 3* in the 2015 Southern Hemisphere season, where I placed 2nd.
This film is called Re-Establishment and was shown at the Wanaka Mountain Film Festival in 2015. The goal of the film was to show what its like to come back from a major injury to those who haven't experienced it first hand, as well as to create something relatable to people who have.
The film will be online pretty soon. I hope you will give it a look!
From Norway I travelled pretty much straight to Slovakia, with a day stopover in Vienna at Austrian Snowboard chick, Manuela Mandels place.
It was a fairly multi-cultural few days actually, to come from wealthy country like Norway to the less wealthy Slovakia was a pretty interesting experience. The two places are very different to one another.
I also spent a day as a tourist in Vienna on the way, checking out some of the cities famous sites. Vienna is a pretty awesome place to visit, The 1st district, which is at the centre of the city is full of big, important and rather old buildings. The place has an incredible feeling of age and history, which can only be topped by the Natural History Museum, which is full of much older and much more historic stuff. I spent about half a day in there...
Vienna is pretty different to both Slovakia and Norway so that added in another contrast along the way.
Aside from getting #DadBodDeep in history and culture I also went skiing.
The purpose of the journey was to compete at the FWQ 4* event at Jasna In Slovakia.
The venue drops right off a wind stripped ridge from the top gondola station and heads down through ice caked cliffs to the basin below. The terrain there is sick and I really want to go back to explore more of it!
The weather and the snow conditions reminded me very much skiing in NZ, which made us Kiwis feel right at home.
This was the biggest group of Kiwis I have ever been a part of since I have been competing internationally.
We had Hank Bilous (10th Ski Men), Maria Kuzma (2nd Sb Women), Roland Morley-Brown (7th Sb Men) and Anna Smoothy (1st Ski Women) riding while Dion Newport, Neil Williman and Hayden Sedden were spread across the two judging panels.
It was so good having everyone there.
This comp was a perfect example of knowing what I wanted to ski as soon as I saw the face.
I spotted this steep tight technical section into a big air at the end of the Venue, and Immediately knew it was true love.
The tricky part was deciding on a top section, and in the end I went for a pretty straight forward approach so that I could focus on the main feature.
I placed 6th overall which I am stoked with, although I back slapped my last cliff pretty badly in all I am really happy with the way I skied. There are a few things I would do differently, but they aren't as major. Besides I would be confused if I got the the bottom of a run feeling like it was perfect!
After Jasna I am now sitting at 5th on the Qualifier tour and 49th in the world, including FWT riders. This could change quite a bit over the rest of the season as there are still two more 4* comps and a few 3* to go. So I will need to get some more good results if I want to maintain my ranking.
If you listen to the audio at the end of the POV clip below, you will notice that having a beard is not a ticket to manliness if you still still squeal like a child when you're excited.
It was amazing to see Anna Smoothy shred her way into first place for Womans Ski, she skied with speed and purpose, the best I have seen her ride recently.
In fact the Womans Ski category was a real stand out, there are some talented chicks rising through the ranks of the FWQ and I am keen to watch them throw down in the future.
I am back in Champoluc for the next week until Nendaz Freeride in Switzerland, and we finally have snow here!!
When I left the judging spot to head up for my run, I decided to take a run through the trees to practice my high speed short turns in preparation for the tight section in my run.
Part way down I managed to shoulder check a small tree and as a result lost control and blasted off a mogul high speed into a bunch of bigger trees.
On the way through I snapped the one in the picture below with the top of my boot and my knee. I am pretty lucky that it was already dead because it only hurt a lot, and didn't actually damage anything.
I went straight through it into the trees below. They didn't snap and they also hurt a lot.
It was a pretty great way to prep for my run.
10/10 would crash into trees again.
For the post comp Dion Newport organised the first ever Dion Newport Invitational Grand Prix at the gocart place down in Liptovsky Mikulas, The DNIGP, it was loose.
At the end of the last European winter I travelled to Norway to compete at the Roldal Freeride FWQ4*, it was my first season back after injury so it was worth it to get another under the belt, but being so late in the season and so far away I figured it would be a fair while before I ever went back.
It turns out Norway has more to offer for big mountain than I had realised and this season to prove that point they put on an FWQ 4* in Sogndal, which is a University town at the top of a fjord just inland from the west coast, about 5 hours north of Roldal and 7:30 from Oslo by bus.
I was in Norway since last Wednesday and the comp was scheduled for last Friday.
Unfortunately due to bad weather and the resulting high avalanche danger in all venue options the competition day did not happen.
Even still this was the most well organised comp I have ever been to, we were constantly being updated with concise riders meetings with detailed descriptions of snow pack and weather charts topped by well written emails well in advance of any changes, which allowed everyone to stay focused on picking lines and preparing mentally.
Plus there were free waffles...
This was a model performance from the organisers and a far cry from the seriously poor effort put forward by the folks in charge at the Les Arcs 4* a couple of weeks ago.
For me the highlight of the show was the Mini-Ski booter session they put on in place of the comp. It was run in a local dudes back yard in the middle of town, to the sound of Norwegian commentary from a ski jumping competition. Kiwi young gun Hank Bilous was there in his shorts and bath robe chucking hammers and I managed to stick the first back flip of the night, after a few failed attempts.
-As seen below, Mini Skis are little plastic snow blades that you strap to your street shoes, so those who know me will understand my excitement when it was announced-
The snow storm continued through the weekend as predicted and as sort of a "Sorry for being a dick with the weather" from Mother Nature, our travels were rewarded with a beaut of a powder day on Sunday, our final day in Sogndal.
We had an awesome time skiing some of the best pillows I have seen in Europe while doing laps off the back side of the ski resort. The gladed face runs down to the highway where you catch a ski bus back to the resort, to do it all over again!
So even with another cancelled FWQ event to add to the list, the trip to Norway finished well!
I am now on my way to the next FWQ 4* in Slovakia via Vienna. The comp is scheduled to run on Friday 26th February.