3rd Place at the NZ Freeski Open

The big mountain contest for the NZ Freeski Open was held today in the Motatapu Chutes at Treble Cone. Conditions turned out to be better than expected, with firm yet grippy snow. Shutting down after any bigger drop was very challenging today, so most skiers opted for more technical lines in steep and rocky terrain which is actually very suited to the chutes. I decided to ski the venue on my Kästle FX84 (84mm under the binding) which I usually use for groomers and firm snow conditions. I was able to come in third after a fast run with good technique. New Zealand Olympian Mitchey Greig came in 2nd with Janina Kuzma taking first place for the 6th time in a row. Yeah girls!

Womens podium NZ Freeski Open Big Mountain

The next contest in the NZ Freeride Series is the K2 Big Mountain Chill Series, a 2-star event from 25 to 29 August in Craigieburn and Mt. Olympus, followed by the Export Gold Extreme, a 3-star event in Mt. Ruapehu, which I will hopefully be starting at!

NZ Freeski Open Big Mountain On Tomorrow

The NZ Freeski Open Big Mountain comp, which has been on hold due to unfavourable snow conditions and bad weather, is being held in the Motatapu Chutes at Treble Cone tomorrow.

The snow conditions have improved since Monday, with a nice light layer of chalky snow last night and some softening at the top of the terrain. It is forecast to snow slightly more overnight which should hopefully top up the snow in there. Head judge Dion Newport reports that there are some wind drifts and pockets that should allow some good lines, however, difficult conditions will demand technical skiing. Competitors will only get one run to convince the judges.

Storm coming in over Wanaka this afternoon

New this year is that the winners of each catogory (mens and womens ski and snowboard) of the New Zealand Freeride Series receive a wildcard for the 2011 Freeride World Tour stop in Squaw, USA. Read more about how the points are calculated here on the Freeride World Tour website. This represents a huge chance for New Zealand and international riders alike to get a foot in the door to the renowned Freeride World Tour where starting places are offered to a select few riders around the world.

With the comp on hold, I’ve had extra time to treat my patella. My knee feels stronger today and if the conditions are ok, I’ll start at the comp tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Training and Playing in Wanaka, NZ

I decided to spend 2 months in Wanaka, New Zealand, again this year. I felt fantastic after 3 months training and competing here last year, and was skiing stronger than ever. There was a down-side though: after back-to-back winters of skiing and not enough time in the gym, I’ve started developing tendinitis in my patella on my operated knee. Wake up call! So it’s back to the gym to do some strengthening work. Luckily for me, I’m under the very competent care of Ginny Bush from Wanaka Physio, chief physiotherapist for New Zealand’s Winter Olympics team.

Strength training in the gym

Lots of strengthening work can be done outside the gym too

As a skier, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to train than Wanaka. Freeriding at Treble Cone ski resort, park skiing at Snow Park and Cardrona resort, mountains for hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing, 2 fully equipped gyms, Wanaka skate park, olympic sized trampolines, Yoga, Pilates, you name it!

Hiking up Mt. Roy

It's never too late to learn something new!

After a week off skis, I was able to head up to Treble Cone again today on a perfect, blue-bird day. Conditions have improved after a substantial dump of fresh snow of 20cm on 7th August. Temps have been low since then so the snow is still dry. The knee is feeling good.

View from the Summit at Treble Cone. Notice Mt. Aspiring in the background, top right.

The New Zealand Freeski Open Big Mountain, which I’m prequalified for, is on 16th August. Other comps here include the K2 Big Mountain Chill Series and the Export 33 Extreme in Mt. Ruapehu. I’ve decided to compete if I’m feeling fit and strong enough, so stay tuned to see how I go!

3rd place at the NZ Freeski Open big mountain finals!

I woke up to the sound of my alarm at 05:45 am on Saturday morning: it’s big mountain finals day! Competitors staying in Wanaka had to make an early start to make it to the Remarkables near Queenstown at 8:00 am. The decision to relocate the finals to the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables was made yesterday due to the high avalanche danger still present at Treble Cone. I had checked out the venue together with my mate Janina Kuzma yesterday and had mixed feelings about it. Snow conditions were definitely good thanks to the southern aspect of the Alta chutes (the shady aspect in the Southern hemisphere), but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the sharks (rocks hidden in the snow) or the “rock garden” style of terrain. Here, “billy goaters” would rejoice in the many lines they could hop through and around the rocks. But I made myself stay positive, it definitely wasn’t a bad venue.

The finals venue, the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables ski area

The finals venue, the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables ski area

Once I had chosen a line studying the photos I had made the day before, I definitely felt better. But during our inspection run, my heart sank. The main feature I had planned to drop was a no-go. The run out was much steeper and gnarlier than I thought – it meant I would have to straight line down the entire chute over rocks – too risky. Ok, I need an alternative…I quickly pieced together a new line, open but with some nice drops. More my style. Another quick look and I had to ski to the lift and hike up to the start.  10 minutes later I hear the head judge’s voice crackling over the radio: “the judges are ready for Lorraine Huber”. “Ok 5 seconds Lorraine”, you can drop in now.”

A few minutes before my start

A few minutes before my start

I hit my first bump, land, arching turns through the chopped-up, heavy powder, spot my first drop: a shelf on my right, dropped it, so far so good. I ended up further right than I had planned, but could get back to the shoulder on my left without stopping my flow, I had slowed down considerably though. I lined up my next drop, stomped it, and then…I just skied past my final and largest drop! All too quickly I was down at the bottom, panting. 70 seconds of high intensity skiing, but I hadn’t managed to ski what I wanted. Bugger! Man was I disappointed! But I couldn’t stay disappointed for too long hanging out in the sun with my mates and watching some amazing skiing from the guys.

Rebecka, Janina and I after our run

Rebecka, Janina and me after our run

After the comp I hiked back up the venue and skied my line again, this time as I had planed. For some reason I still haven’t managed to ski in competition as I usually do when skiing alone or with my mates.  Finding out why is a great challenge, one that I’m working on right now. Lets see how I go in the K2 Big Mountain Chill Series coming up at the end of the month.

In the end I was stoked to come 3rd at this comp, and especially to compete with skiers like Janina and Rebecka, who are both competing in the Freeride World Tour 201o. Visit the NZ Freeski Open website for video footage and full results.

It was awesome being on the podium with my mates

It was awesome being on the podium with my mates

Back to the snow: Wanaka, NZ

After having spent 3 weeks in Wanaka last year, I decided right then and there to do a whole season in this awesome lakeside town located on the South Island of New Zealand. Only a 30 minute drive to Treble Cone, arguably NZ’s best ski resort, Wanaka is to be my home for the next 3 months.

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Here I will ski and compete in the New Zealand Freeride Series, consisting of: the NZ Freeski Open Big Mountain at Treble Cone, the K2 Big Mountain Chill Series at Craigieburn and Mt. Olympus, and the Export Gold Xtreme at Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu. This is the first ever Southern Hemisphere Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) Event and I’m stoked to be part of it!

I’m pre-qualified for the big mountain finals for the NZ Freeski Open because I podiumed last year. The finals are on the 14th August, wish me luck!

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