By Guy Nurse
Perfect Spring weather and fresh snow on the ground greeted competitors at the first annual Black Diamond Big Mountain, held at Temple Basin Ski Area in Association with CHILL.
The extreme ski and snowboard event, the final of CHILL’s Big Mountain competitions held in the Craigieburn Range and Arthur’s Pass, Canterbury, was a long anticipated return of Big Mountain ski competition to the ‘inbound back-country’ ski area.
Black Diamond BIG Mountain (view to Rolleston) – © Stu Waddel
Located in the ‘Main Divide’ directly above Arthur’s Pass, the ski area is surrounded be the towering peaks of Mt Temple, Mt Phipps, and Mt Rolleston across the valley, offering the perfect back-drop for the free-ride event.
As Saturday morning dawned, two things were clear; one, a delayed start was on the cards due to the heavy frost of Friday night bringing firm conditions to the course, and two, it was going to be a very warm day. Clear skies and zero wind rocked the temperatures on the upper course to 6 degrees by just 9am – it was going to be a perfect spring day.
After Temple Basin ski area management and snow-safety staff had set the course through Lower Bill’s Basin, led by NZ free-ski guru Todd Windle, athletes were allowed a two and a half hour window to inspect the course as it softened in the sun, before a 1:30pm start. Judges and spectators sat in the heat of the afternoon and witnessed some superb free-skiing and snow-boarding from the 25 strong field.
Competitors inspect the course from below at event briefing – © Guy Nurse
With competitors flowing through the technical terrain one by one, it was clear that they would have to work hard to find the best snow conditions. Firm snow-pack above most exposed features (cliff bands) created hazardous take off points for athletes.
The caliber of the field was impressive. Primarily local, young athletes were present for the event, along with a small contingent of skiers from Wanaka NZ, plus some international free-ski travelers from the Northern Hemisphere. Local Craigieburn Range skier, Neil Williman, stepped up the level from the word go, sending a 50 foot air off the bottom of the course after a strong first run. The aggression rubbed off on the rest of the field, with several skiers pushing to lock in strong scores on the first day of the event.
Sam Smoothy, of Cromwell Central Otago, traveled to Temple Basin en route North for the Mt Ruapehu Extreme held in the week following the event. Having competed at a premier level on the world free-ski stage at the Free-ride World Tour in the Northern Hemisphere, Smoothy was impressed by the terrain available at Temple. “This place is simply epic, it’s a free-skiers paradise, and it’s really cool to be able to have a Big Mountain event up here”. After a fall on his first run, and following Williman in pushing the aggression button, Smoothy skied a strong second run on the first day, with two fluid airs, only to come unstuck on the finish line and crash once more, sacrificing his chances of taking out the event. However, upon skiing a very strong and fluid line on the final day, he managed to claw his way back into fourth place.
After a great day of competition on day one, both men’s and women’s open categories were completely up for grabs. As the day dawned on Sunday, day two of the event looked to be epic once again, the perfect weather sticking around for the completion of the event. Competition organizers added a small zone on skiers left of the course, putting a couple of new line options in the mix, and just one run each available on the final day, all were anxious to see what would go down.
Over the two-day event, competitors were each to ski three runs. They then were able to drop their lowest scoring run and the two remaining scores were totaled to see who came out on top.
The women’s title was closely contended between French skier Claire Yvinec of France (Temple Basin ski instructor) and Lori Huber, based in Austria. All was on the line on the final day, with Claire dropping first out of the two and skiing a solid line to lock in a good score similar to that of her first run on Saturday. Strong, fast and technical skiing by the French-woman had her primed to take the title, with just Huber left to drop.
Huber’s Free-ride World Tour calibre was evident in her final run through the course, choosing to utilize the new addition of terrain on skiers left and skiing a strong and fast line, impressing the judges. Dropping in above some fairly exposed terrain, Huber held nothing back. She skied fluidly and aggressively above the cliff band, before lining up a chute entry to a 25ft air, stomping the landing and ‘strait-lining’ the run-out as a vocal crowd showed their appreciation. Taking the honors by just 2 points, an ecstatic Huber took her second victory in a week after claiming the K2 Big Mountain title a week earlier.
The groms division (under 18) once again saw a strong field of juniors mixing it with the big boys, showing the strength of the local youth in the Craigieburn Range. Local skier Jeremy Gardner came out on top of the grom division with a strong socre on day two locking it in.
The men’s division too was up for grabs, with strong skiing on the final day required to claim the title. Ex Temple Basin instructor Alex Lyndon skied the new zone well on his final run, taking two good airs and slotting into the third place. Southern Lakes based Pete Oswald of the Awatere Valley also skied well, combining a solid and difficult air leading into a double stage air through a steep chute at the bottom of the course to take second place.
Fitting for the event in its first year, Black Diamond skier and Methven local Roy Schott claimed the title with yet another high scoring line to add to his two scores from day one. Also utilizing the new zone of the course, Roy skied strong above exposure, and stomped the air to follow to take first place and put a smile on the face of personal and event sponsors Black Diamond.
Athletes scaled Little Phipps after the comp for one last blast – © Guy Nurse
As the judges deliberated and tallied the scores from the two days, Schott, Smoothy and Oswald scaled the peak known as Little Phipps across the valley and in full view of the lodge. An epic finish to a perfect weekend of free-skiing, they individually skied the face and returned to the Temple lodges for prize giving and wrap up.
Video as shot and prepared by Rich Sutcliffe of Kinetic is now available via Vimeo, and can be embedded to your web platform. Follow the link below.
Huge thanks must go to the Temple Basin crew, Mountain Manager Ben Peet, Todd Windle and the entire Temple snow-safety team. Additionally, Black Diamond New Zealand for their sponsorship of the event, for supporting Big Mountain skiing in the Canterbury region, and for bringing an event back to Temple Basin. Thanks also goes to event organizers, the CHILL winter adventures crew, for supporting the event and bringing it all together.
Black Diamond BIG MOUNTAIN – Results
Run Run Run
One Two Three
Bib No Name Total Total Total Overall
58 Lorraine Huber 26.33 30.33 39.33 69.67
26 Claire Yvinec 35.00 26.67 32.33 67.33
46 Astrid Nygaard 22.33 21.33 21.33 43.67
29 Margot Bohanon 17.00 19.00 17.00 36.00
52 Roy Schott 39.33 30.33 38.00 77.33
24 Pete Oswald 36.67 36.67 39.33 76.00
28 Alex Lynden 21.67 32.00 35.83 67.83
15 Sam Smoothy 19.00 22.67 42.50 65.17
57 Giacum Frei 25.67 26.00 32.67 58.67
31 Rory Camm 25.00 28.00 18.33 53.00
44 Jeremy Gardner 24.00 20.00 28.67 52.67
54 Campbell Smith 24.33 14.67 28.33 52.67
56 Ruari Macfarlane 18.67 21.33 28.83 50.17
45 Lorenzo Balabha 25.33 21.67 23.67 49.00
48 John Hart 22.33 24.33 20.33 46.67
59 Tom Southen 21.17 15.67 23.50 44.67
39 Ollie Hunt 0.00 20.33 22.33 42.67
43 Gabe Ciafre 20.67 16.33 17.33 38.00
17 Tador Flaherty 17.33 19.00 15.33 36.33
50 William Kerr 25.67 19.83 0.00 0.00
55 Tom Brownlee 17.00 24.67 0.00 0.00
53 Sam Worsp 15.33 11.33 0.00 0.00
42 Neil Williman 25.00 19.67 0.00 0.00