The weather gods blessed the opening of the 2009 World Heli Challenge. Blue sky's, dry powder snow and 43 of the worlds top skiers and boarders competed in the "Freeride Day , one of three days of heli access competitions held over a two week period. The athletes claimed it as "the most innovative, unique and cutting edge event ever". It was great to see such an inspirational event resurrected after an 8 year hiatus and it assume its position back on the international snow sports calendar.
The standout skiers included Mike Wilson (U.S.) in 1st, Chris Booth (Australia), Tim Dutton (US) in 2nd and Tim Myer (Australia) 3rd. In the female ski category Janina Kuzma took first with USA's Jackie Passo 2nd and Ingrid Backstrom in 3rd.
The "Freeride Day" of the World Challenge is all about finding out who are the best performers of aerial manouvres in the back country environment. The athletes are lifted by helicopter into some of the most granduer landscapes on earth and let loose down the mountain on undulating terrain. Some of the competitors were jumping in excess of 60 ft through the air performing "Misty 720 Flips" (2 rotations with a twist) and there was a stand out double front somersault from Lake Tahoe, California's Mike Wilson.
Today is the "Big Mountain Day" where athletes will put everything on the line to ski and snowboard some of the steepest mountains in NZ. The level of their athletic capacities will be pushed far beyond the realms of any snow resort event and it's this day that truly showcases the "wow" factor of snow sports.
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