WORLD HELI CHALLENGE – Freeride Day Perfect Except for Injured Davenport

April 2nd, 2011

Competitors waiting to board the helicopter on a barge in the middle of Lake Wanaka. Image:: Harro

World Heli Challenge

Ideal conditions and epic skiing marked the freeride day of the World Heli Challenge but defending champion Ted Davenport’s serious crash marred an otherwise perfect day.

Two-time champion, Ted Davenport, in a bid to regain his title, went huge on his first fun but failed to make his landing and destroyed his ski on the rocky ridges. This didn’t stop him from going even bigger on his second run where again he had problems with his landing and unfortunately, this time around it was Ted who ended up injured. Kudos to the mountain safety team and helicopter pilots who got to Ted quickly and were able to assess and extract him from the mountain. In the end, Ted had broken his leg but his biggest concern is that he’s getting married in two months and he is worried that his fiancé won’t be very happy with him!

Update: According to Ted’s facebook page he has fractured his left tibia and fibula in three places and fractured his right calcaneus. Two broken legs.

Ted Davenport mid crash. Ouch. Image:: Harro

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.

The final day of competition saw many athletes going huge with awe-inspiring cliff drops that had the spectators holding their breath until they were landed safely. Several of the lines looked near on impossible to ski or snowboard, but the athletes showed us why they are the best of the best, making the lines look easy.

Highlights of the day included exceptional runs by skiers Ben Schmitt (USA) and Fraser McDougall (Wanaka, NZ).

“Fraser had one of the most ripping runs ever in the heli challenge,” said event founder Tony Harrington.

Snowboarders, Dave Saxton (Queenstown, NZ) , Mike Basich (USA) and Will Jackways (Wanaka, NZ) all showed stunning displays of technique and ability with amazing line choices.

On the women’s side, a few of the male competitors were overheard telling Australia’s Nat Segal that she skied her run like a “man.”

USA’s Drew Peterson (only 17) proved that he has a future in big mountain skiing.

“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.”

It’s hard to capture in writing the joy that was emanating from the four Young Guns (Calgary’s Mark Hendrickson, Hawaii’s Lyon Farrell, Australia’s Mitch Reeves and local Hank Bilous) first in anticipation of the day and then even more so after they each pulled off astounding runs.

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.

And, no trip to New Zealand would be complete without a day on a station. Athletes will 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.

All images Harro