Behind the Lens at the World Heli Challenge

August 12th, 2010

Charlie Timmons soaring through the NZ sky.

Words & Images | Camilla Stoddart – Photographer

I always have a bad night sleep before a big day. My gear list runs through my dozing brain, have I got everything? Will I wake up to my alarm? Will I get ‘the shot’? And it never fails to amaze how I always fall into the deepest sleep right before my alarm rudely wakes me.

Which it did on the first day of the World Heli Challenge. But, I didn’t forget any gear, I wasn’t late and I got a few shots I am happy with. Mission accomplished. The day started with the crew of international skiers and riders meeting in farm field, next to a paddock of deer, deep in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. We had driven 45 minutes up to the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park heli ski terrain. I was stoked to be shooting this event for a second year running. With names like Travis Rice, Andy Finch, Quintin Robins, Ted Davenport, Chris Booth, Charlie Timmons, Julia Mancuso (I could go on and on here) it couldn’t fail to be a great event!

Freestyle Day Expression Session

We were well aware that the last storm was warmer than we hoped and left some heavy wet snow on the comp venues. Word in the paddock was that it was pretty ‘solid’ up there. None the less we all piled into the birds for our scenic flight to the comp venue but the decision was made run a jam session rather than a judged competition.

We were dropped on a perch high above some inversion cloud blanketing Lake Wanaka and hugging the mountains below. It was stunning. The snow had formed a heavy crust over night, and frozen to an ice rink. The judges made the call to take a few athletes down to find a spot to build a kicker. We were warned that the snow was so very icy and to take great care on the ski down. No kidding, it was!

Before long Travis had found a sweet kicker spot, with the only soft patch of snow on the mountain as the landing. The bleak day was looking up. The frothing skiers and boarders took moments to put the impressive hip jump up. Soon a mega session was underway on the jump and I shot photos like it was going out of fashion. The snow was softening up and some epic tricks were going down. Charlie Timmins was going the biggest (in my humble opinion).

As clouds began to roll in from the West Coast the session was called to an end but we got in a wee session on the wind lips skiing down to the birds. Chris Booth was pulling his immaculate hand plants and Sam Smoothy was attempting rodeos off the wind lip wall. I love it when a bunch of pros get together and become creative with what the mountain and what the day offers. It was such a spectacle being out there documenting the day.

Back down in our paddock next to the deer, we were all popping the tops of our Corona bottles, and there was nothing but smiling faces. It had been a fun session in NZ’s beautiful Southern Alps and we still had the Extreme Day to look forward to.

Quentin Robins.

Dave Schmit sessions a wind lip while waiting for his chopper ride down the hill.

World Heli Challenge 2010.

Yeah ladies.

Extreme Day

Arriving at the helis on the morning of the Extreme Day we were told the venue had been changed. The conditions were still solid so we would be heading to an aspect that would soften up quicker than Mt Albert, the planned venue. We waited about until 10.30am before being lifted to the bottom of the competition face.

We waited for it to soften a little more before competitors were lifted to the top of the face, having scoped their lines from the bottom. Soon the day was underway with riders and skiers taking it in turn to rip the icy face as best they could. Ted Davenport skied an unbeatable line, and managed to kick of a grade 3 avalanche and ski out of it. It was pretty interesting to watch! But Ted, being the pro that he is, skied it unfazed. Travis Rice also rode a creative line, bringing him out on top of the snowboard men.

Soon the one run was over and it was time to chopper back down to the Macarora Valley, but after some snowboarders sessioned a wind lip below the chopper.

A massive party was on that night down the hill, with folk rocking out in the town of Wanaka until the early hours… Viva Le World Heli Challenge!

full the full results from the World Heli Challenge 2010, visit

Luke Potts and Sam Smoothy check their lines in the big mountain arena.

Ralph Backstrom shreds the ice…

Chris Booth, Charlie Timmons and Fraser McDougall scout lines with the bird doing its thing behind…!

<br”>Chopper coming in to LZ with competitors hiking to their drop zones.