Due to unforeseen challenges, the latest stage of the World Heli Challenge (WHC) scheduled to launch in Alaska in mid-April has been placed on hold for 2012. Event Director Tony Harrington announced the postponement of the planned expansion of his iconic backcountry heli-accessed competition today but has not ruled out continuing to explore options for a future event in Alaska.
“It is disappointing to put our exciting plans for a World Heli Challenge in Valdez on hold for now, but it was important to everyone involved to get the event right. There were some elements including guarantees for athlete safety, access to the best-suited terrain and some key permissions we needed to be in place to proceed confidently. The World Heli Challenge team prides itself on delivering a competition like no other so we chose to defer the event rather than risk any compromise to the high standards our athletes, sponsors, media partners and supporters know us for.”
For now the next chapter for the World Heli Challenge will unfold in the Southern Alps above Wanaka in the south island of New Zealand from 1st – 17th August, 2012. Fifty athletes will gather for the unique competition format in an adrenaline-fueled, two days of heli-accessed competition for the leading men and women in big mountain and freestyle skiing and boarding globally.
In light of this change, Alyeska Resort has partnered with long-time Valdez heli-ski operator Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides. The top placing men and women ski and snowboard finishers in the 2012 Alyeska Chugach Open will receive daily package for six runs with Alaska Rendezvous Heli-Guides. The inaugural Alyeska Chugach Open event is scheduled for March 22 to 25, 2012. With one of the biggest winters in the resort’s history, the Chugach Open venues will feature some of Alyeska’s most exciting big mountain lines.
The Chugach Open includes three days of competition, open to Alpine, snowboard and Telemark athletes. The high-level competition showcases Alyeska’s challenging double black diamond terrain with select venues typically not open to the general public. The terrain offers such features as steep cliffs, chutes and 2,500 feet of vertical with the ability to test the mettle of the most experienced freeriders. Currently under consideration as possible venues are the Headwall to Fast Boy and the Wedge for the first two runs, and the Shadows area to Jim’s Rock for the final run. Venue selection is based on current weather and avalanche conditions and may be moved to the North Face if necessary.
“Our goal is to create a free spirit, welcoming all disciplines, at the Chugach Open,” says Di Hiibner, ski area general manager. “Our plan is to open up in-bounds terrain that is indicative of the big heli-lines in the Chugach Mountains. Alyeska has so many fantastic big mountain faces perfect for top athletes to test their sheer will, creativity and talent.”
Registration and additional information for the Chugach Open is available online at www.alyeskaresort.com/chugachopenregistration. Athletes must be 18 years of age and of advanced or better ability to compete in the open division. There will also be a juniors division for those between 13 and 17 years of age for all disciplines. There are three levels of registration: $110 includes entry to competition only, $230 includes entry plus three day lift tickets, and $310 includes entry plus five day lift tickets. All participants will be required to wear a helmet and beacon during the competition. The 2012 Chugach Open is sponsored in part by Salomon USA and GoBandit.
Alyeska Resort is well-established as a big mountain competition venue. The resort hosted the Subaru Freeskiing World Championships and Subaru U.S. Freeskiing Series Finals in April 2009. Produced by event promoter Mountain Sports International, the 2009 series included five other resort venues and featured Alyeska as the culminating finale. More recently, Alyeska partnered with Tough Guy Productions to host the 2009 World Telemark Freeskiing Championships and 2010 Alyeska World Comp, which opened the competition to all disciplines.