Lake Wanaka – Competitors at the 2011 World Heli Challenge were treated to another amazing day yesterday, August 1, during the final day of competition, the Extreme Day at Mt. Albert. The day started in a most unusual way, with athletes and event crew boarding a barge that crossed the upper tip of Lake Wanaka heading towards the base of the Minaret Station. The barge became the launch site for the helicopters, providing an extra element of excitement for the day ahead.
On the final day of competition, many athletes went huge with awe-inspiring cliff drops that had the spectators holding their breath until they hopefully landed safely. Several of the lines looked nearly impossible to ski or snowboard, however the athletes showed why they are the best of the best.
Highlights of the day included exceptional runs by skiers USA’s Ben Schmitt and Fraser McDougall of Wanaka, NZ. “Fraser had one of the most ripping runs ever in the heli challenge,” said event founder Tony Harrington. For the Snowboarders, Dave Saxton of Queenstown, NZ, USA’s Mike Basich and Will Jackways of Wanaka, NZ all showed stunning displays of technique and ability with amazing line choices.
“All the Young Guns put in solid runs,” said Harrington. “It will be exciting to see what the future holds for every one of these guys.” Such young guns included USA’s Drew Peterson, who is only 17 years old, proved that he has a future in big mountain skiing. Others like Calgary’s Mark Hendrickson, Hawaii’s Lyon Farrell, Australia’s Mitch Reeves and local Hank Bilous easily showed off their joys being there as well as their skills.
Two-time World Heli Challenge champion back to regain his title, Ted Davenport, went huge on his first fun but failed to make his landing and destroyed his ski on the rocky ridges. However this didn’t stop him from going even bigger on his second run (picture to the right is Ted at the start of his second run). Unfortunately, he had problems with his landing and this time around it was Davenport who ended up injured. The mountain safety team and helicopter pilots got to Ted quickly and were able to assess and extract him from the mountain. He ended up with 3 tib/fib fractures in the left leg and a fractured calcaneus on the right leg. Davenport’s biggest concern about the injury is that he’s getting married in two months and he is worried that his fiancé won’t be very happy with him.
The ridgelines were filled with several of the world’s top photographers and filmers, all vying for their chance to win the coveted award of best photographer or filmer at the first-ever World Heli Challenge Shootout. Their photos and mini-documentaries will be featured at the World Heli Challenge Showcase evening on Thursday, 11 August at the Lake Wanaka Centre. This event is open to the public, with tickets only $12 and available at the Wanaka i-site, Racer’s Edge, Southern Lakes Heliski and Base.
The athletes now have ten days to experience a mixture of off-snow adrenaline activities as well as taking in some of the culture of New Zealand. Throughout these ten days the anticipation is sure to build, as the winners will not be revealed until the World Heli Challenge Showcase evening.
The competitors will choose from a number of activities including surfing with the legendary former world surfing champion Mark Occhilupo, bungee jumping off the Nevis bridge, sky diving, jet boating and mountain biking. Those looking to tone down the adrenaline can choose to spend a day wine tasting at Rippon Vineyard, go golfing, fishing or just relax at a café drinking lattes and taking in the beauty of Lake Wanaka.
Athletes will also be treated to a day at the Glen Dene station, on the shores of Lake Hawea, where they will have the opportunity to ride quads and shoot clay pigeons. Also on offer, is an overnight adventure to the Dingleburn Station where they will be hosted by legendary big mountain skier, Bridget Mead.
For a personal look at what the athletes are up to, check out the World Heli Challenge facebook page where many of the athletes, photographers and filmers have been posting their personal take on their experience while here in New Zealand. For more information on the World Heli Challenge, log on to www.worldhelichallenge.com.