High riders vie for NZ's ultimate snow challenge
22 May 2012
World Heli Challenge, Lake Wanaka
1 - 16 August, 2012
International snow sports stars with a taste for the high life will soon be heading to New Zealand’s southern alpine regions to compete in the 2012 World Heli Challenge - dubbed "the most exotic snow-based event on the planet".
The two-week event - based in the South Island region of Lake Wanaka - promises spectacular action as some of the world’s top snow athletes test their snowboarding and skiing skills against both the landscape and each other.
In the World Heli Challenge, competitors fly into a back country mountain area to face the ultimate challenge of free-riding or skiing out across ‘freshies’ - off-piste untouched powder, in a unique event that brings together skiers and snowboarders from all disciplines and removes traditional competition limitations.
Wanaka, a ski resort on the shores of Lake Wanaka - one of a series of glacially-created lakes in New Zealand’s southern lakes region - will host the World Heli Challenge from 1 - 16 August, 2012.
Most of the competition is slated to play out in the mountains of Mt Aspiring National Park which overlooks Lake Wanaka's western shores.
The event is based around two days - 'extreme' and 'freestyle' - of action-packed tests on the mountain where finalists compete for the title of best all-round skier and snowboarder.
Event director Tony ‘Harro’ Harrington, a former surfer and snowboarder who travels the world filming / photographing snow sports, and organising extreme events, says "it’s all about unrivalled camaraderie mixed with two weeks of continuous adrenalin activities, and incredible helicopter skills".
"World Heli Challenge offers athletes the best conditions in which to ultimately test their all-around ability as a snow athlete. Each competitor will be tested both physically and mentally in the challenge, which is unique to every other snow event in the world."
Competitors for the invitation-only event have not yet been named but Harrington promises a line-up of Olympians and the cream of the world’s top snow sports men and women - "a who’s who of skiing and snowboarding".
"Many of the world’s iconic and current champions have already expressed interest in taking part in this year’s event and we can’t wait to create something unforgettable for them," Harrington said.
"Everything is falling into place and we are looking forward to our most successful event ever."
The mixed competition offers 50 spots for athletes, divided into 18 male snowboarders and 18 male skiers, seven female boarders and seven female skiers. Riders represent a cross section of freestylers, extremists, ski racers and freeriders.
The two days of helicopter-accessed competition is staged over a two-week period to ensure perfect weather conditions. Athletes vie for top honours in extreme, free ride and downhill events, and the World Heli Challenge Champion title.
The overall men and women's winners will receive free entry into the 2012 World Heli Challenge, the King of the Hill and World Extreme Skiing Championships in Valdez, Alaska.
Associated events include "The Shootout" for 12 top and emerging camera operators featuring five photo categories and five-minute mini documentaries.
The event concludes with Showcase Awards Night to crown the World Heli Challenge winners, showcase the films and announce the Shootout winners. The World Heli Challenge Exhibition will then tour Australia.
Tony Harrington says the event is "much more than just another snow sports competition".
"We pioneered the adventure lifestyle concept that is just now being embraced by international events such as the X Games. The World Heli Challenge brings people, art, creativity, lifestyle and cultural experiences to New Zealand’s Lake Wanaka and the towering peaks that surround it.
Two-time world champion and inaugural World Heli Challenge Champion, Ted Davenport (USA) says the World Heli Challenge is his favourite competition on earth.
"No other ski or snowboard event combines freestyle, extreme and psycho downhill skills like the Heli Challenge," Davenport says.
Leading sponsors for the 2012 event are Carlton Dry, Marker/Volkl International and Volkl NZ.
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 a variety of 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, Treble Cone, Snow Farm and Snow Park.
NZ Regions: Lake Wanaka
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