Back And Bigger Than Ever, The World Heli Challenge Goes Global in 2012

Posted By: The Ski Channel on January 23, 2012 1:04 pm

For those who thought The World Heli Challenge couldn’t get any bigger or more exciting, think again. In April 2012, the competition is going global — staging a tour stop in Alaska’s spectacular Chugach Mountain Range! The epicenter of big mountain skiing for over a decade, the Valdez mountains have garnered a reputation for delivering some of the most reliable, deep powder in North America. With a picturesque backdrop and perfect conditions, Alaska is the ideal location to name the world’s next best all-mountain athlete.

The World Heli Challenge showcases skiers and snowboarders from around the world in an unparalleled two-day spellbinding helicopter-accessed competition. This year, the event will run during a ten-day weather window from April 14th to 24th.

Competition centers around two primary events: the “Extreme Day” and the “Freestyle Day”. For the Extreme Day, athletes are ranked on their ability to “flash” down a steep course with dropping cliffs. Specifically, competitors are scored on their ability to ride fast, hard and in control, while utilizing the features of the mountain to provide a “wow” factor unlike any other in the sport. In contrast, the Freeride Day competition showcases an athletes acrobatic and aerial skills. Applying what they have learned in training and perfected on the front side of the mountain, competitors push the limits of what is possible in the back-country.

Winning Photo from the 2011 Photo Shootout by Miles Holden

Unique to the World Heli Challenge is an innovative judging format pioneered at the New Zealand event in 2011 in which every athletes’ run is filmed and posted online. An international team of highly qualified judges, then assess the runs and provide a combined score to compliment those from the on-mountain judges. The overall scores from each day then are combined to crown a World Heli Challenge Champion!

2011 Freestyle Day: Luke Potts goes upside down  

Previous winners of the King of the Hill, World Extreme Skiing Championships and the World Heli Challenge read as a who’s who of freeriding worldwide: Travis Rice, Antonin Lieutaghi, Steve Klassen, Julie Zell, Matt Goodwill, Gilles Voirol, Axel Pauporte, Karleen Jeffery, Aline Bock, Steve Graham, Ben Bright, Doug Coombs, John Hunt, Brant Moles, Adam Arnaurd, Dean Cummings, Seb Michaud, Guerlain Chicherit, Kent Kreitler, brothers Chris and Ted Davenport, Sam Smoothy, Janina Kuzma, Wendy Fisher, Andrea Binning and Ane Enderud are just some of the world’s best who’ve competed in the events.

World Heli Challenge Event Director, Tony Harrington, created the New Zealand event, when he combined big mountain and backcountry freestyle elements in 1995. After a seven-year hiatus, the discipline stormed back onto the freeriding calendar in 2009. The huge response to its return has inspired the exciting step of bringing the global tour linking both hemispheres.

Startline of the 2011 challenge. Mt Albert 2100 meters.

“There is something special that happens when you bring together the world’s finest snow sports athletes, take them in helicopters to the pick of the most awesome, heart-thumping terrain and let them do their best. It’s so much more than a competition. The support and enthusiasm we’ve had from the freeriding community worldwide has been humbling and that’s why we had to bring these events back,” explains event co-directors Tony Harrington. “There are plenty of competitions out there but the World Heli Challenge is about sharing our passion for this incredible sport, being a part of something bigger and making history.”

The World Heli Challenge will be open for competition entry applications from February 1st via Mark your calendars,because places for the Alaskan event will be limited.

To find out more about the World Heli Challenge, visit and

Jason Larraman created this documentary of the World Heli Challenge and won the “Corona From Where You’d Rather Be” category.  Check it out!

Photog: Tony Harrington