Southern Alps host extreme sports challenge
11 Sep 2009
After three days of extreme exploits, American freeskier Ted Davenport, of Aspen (Colorado), has raced away with top honours at the World Heli Challenge in New Zealand.
Davenport was among 29 top free skiers and riders from around the world who have been testing the limits of their skills and daring over the past two weeks as they vied for the coveted challenge title.
The races were centred on Mt. Aspiring National Park, near Lake Wanaka - remote mountainous country in New Zealand’s Southern Alps region. While most of the action took place far away from public view, the events have provided some stunning television coverage for international audiences.
There were good snow falls in the days before the big mountain event, and competition took place under blue skies. There are just three days of competition, but the contest is scheduled over two weeks to allow for ideal conditions.
Twenty-nine athletes - 17 male skiers, nine male snowboarders, three female skiers and four female snowboarders - participated in the 2009 World Heli Challenge.
Ted Davenport was first in the big mountain competition, where skiers take aggressive lines down a steep mountain face. He also won the downhill competition - a "Chinese downhill" style race where first to the bottom wins, and was eighth in the freeride event.
The overall World Heli Challenge titles were awarded to:
- Ted Davenport (USA) - men's ski
- Andy Finch (USA) - men's snowboard
- Janina Kuzma (NZ) - women's ski
- Maria Kuzma (NZ) - women's snowboard.
Davenport described the event as "the most epic week of contest skiing".
"The World Heli Challenge has been amazing! We were blessed with epic weather, epic conditions and incredible venues. Every day I was blown away by where we were dropped off at, I felt like a kid in a candy store," Davenport said.
Hard core snow sports
Dubbed by the organisers as "the most exotic free ride and free ski event on the planet", the World Heli Challenge was last held in 2001.
Athletes are transported by helicopter into otherwise inaccessible terrain to compete for top honours in three hard-core snow sports disciplines - extreme, free ride and downhill events.
The overall goal is to find the best all-round skier and snowboarder, the World Heli Challenge champion.
"Every competitor will be tested both physically and mentally in the challenge, which is unique to every other snow event in the world," director Tony Harrington said.
"The World Heli Challenge offers athletes the best conditions in which to ultimately test their all-around ability as a snow athlete."
Harrington, who travels the world filming and photographing snow sports, and organising extreme events, is a former surfer and snowboarder.
Event partners included outdoor sports lifestyle company Quiksilver and ski makers Volkl International.
Lake Wanaka - in the heart of New Zealand’s southern lakes region - is the gateway to Mount Aspiring national park and Te Wahipounamu world heritage area.
The resort town of Wanaka, on the southern shores of Lake Wanaka, has year-round outdoor adventures and indoor luxury.
During the long, hot summers, the braided rivers and lakes are alive with people enjoying water-based leisure sports including boating, trout fishing and water-skiing. The mountains offer extensive hiking tracks, mountaineering and rock climbing for outdoor enthusiasts.
In winter, the mountains surrounding the lake provide top ski and heli-ski facilities, attracting snow lovers from around the world to the ski resorts at Cardrona and Treble Cone.
NZ Regions: Lake Wanaka
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