Challenging, snowy conditions didn’t prevent some of the world’s top halfpipe riders from raising the bar in the finals of the Volkl New Zealand Freeski Open halfpipe competition held Saturday at Cardrona Alpine Resort near Lake Wanaka.
Taylor Seaton of the United States narrowly edged out Wanaka local Byron Wells in the men’s final. Canada’s Noah Bowman rounded out the podium.
“Taylor and Byron showed the most amplitude of all the riders,” said Head Judge Rafael Regazzoni. “In the end the difference for Taylor was that he was able to combine more tricks in his run and was slightly better technically.”
Regazonni specifically pointed to Seaton’s huge alley-oop 900 as a difference-maker. “Byron went huge, but he missed out on his final hit and that cost him,” said Regazzoni. “And Noah threw a big double flare but was unable to land it cleanly.”
In the women’s halfpipe final, Megan Gunning’s final run score of 94.25 separated her from the rest of the field. Wanaka local Janina Kuzma was second, and American rider Jamie Crane-Mauzy was third.
“Megan threw down a huge cork 1080, a trick that not many women can pull off,” said Regazzoni. “She was impressive. It was a fantastic halfpipe but the conditions made it difficult for everyone.”
Wanaka locals Ryan Read and Raphael Beazley finished 18th and 19th, respectively, in the men’s final. After Kuzma, the top New Zealand women were Mikey Austin (5th) and Hannah James (7th).
The Bolle Young Gun Awards went to Canada’s Gunning (1st); Nick Goepper of the U.S. (2nd) and Jonas Hunziker of Switzerland (3rd).
Byron Wells’ brother, reigning World Champion Jossi Wells, did not compete due to injury.
The Volkl NZ Freeski Open continues on Aug. 16 with the North Face Big Mountain Competition at Treble Cone.