Archive for August, 2009

Chill Series Part 2: 1st Place at Mt. Olympus

August 31, 2009

From the start it was clear that the normally 2 day big mountain event at Mt. Olympus of the 2009 Big Mountain Chill Series would be reduced to skiing on Saturday only; so far the event had been plagued by wind, rain, and gale force winds, and the same was forecast for the last day on Sunday. Luck was on our side though as we awoke to blue bird skies on Saturday – comp day! The chosen venue this year was a ridge line referred to as “Little Alaska”, where competitors are given the chance to ski two lines to impress the judges: one on the left and one on the right of the venue .

Comp venue 1, Little Alaska, Mt. Olympus

Comp venue 1, Little Alaska, Mt. Olympus

Comp venue 2, Little Alaska, Mt. Olympus

Comp venue 2, Little Alaska, Mt. Olympus

Us comp girls before skiing the first line

The first line I skied was more technical than I usually choose at a comp, but I liked the challenge it posed for me and I decided to hit it. I carved the first two turns in beautiful dry powder over a spine and wind lip before the terrain narrowed into two tight chutes (tighter than I had anticipated!) separated by two large rocks. Taking the skiers right chute I managed to stay on my feet, a couple of hop turns between 2 boulders, and then I came maching out of the chute at full speed. The remaining 150 vertical meters went by in a blur of 3 huge turns. Thankfully I managed to hold it together, what a rush!

My first line, Little Alaska

My first line, Little Alaska

I really was looking forward to skiing my second line – the face was quite short but packed with features to play with. As I was watching the competitors before me at the start, it became quite clear that the conditions were icy. Should I change my line? Ski a more mellow one but be sure to stay on my feet? No I decided, I know I can do this! Finally it was my turn to start. My heart pounding, I waved my poles above my head before dropping in. As anticipated, the snow was wind-scoured and icy, and I was only just able to make a turn to the left and to my first drop after my steep entry. Two turns later and I was at the first cliff, I hesitated briefly seeing some rocks in the landing, but managed to land to the left of them. The snow was fast, but I could use the terrain to my advantage by making a long turn to the right, taking out speed before turning to the left towards the largest cliff at the bottom of the venue.  Sliding over the snow band on the top of the cliff, I jumped at an angle to the left and stomped it! I was so stoked to have skied my line just as I had planned!

My 2nd and winning line, Little Alaska

My 2nd and winning line, Little Alaska

I was able to take first place, with Katerina Kuncova from the Czech Republic and Naomi Richards from Australia taking 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

A well deserved beer after a strenuous comp day

Marc and Jake enjoying a well deserved beer after a strenuous comp day

1st place at the Big Mountain Chill Series 2009

1st place at the Big Mountain Chill Series 2009

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Chill Series Part 1: Craigieburn Valley

August 31, 2009

The Chill Series big mountain competition, held this year for the 10th time at Craigieburn Valley and Mt. Olympus, is renown in New Zealand for its challenging terrain and positive vibe. I couldn’t wait to be part of it this year and finally get the real New Zealand “club field” experience. The club fields are usually non-profit organisations run by enthusiastic club members and seasonal staff. They exist solely for the purpose of skiing and snowboarding, not for commercial gain. These grassroots, unpretentious club fields also have one more enticing element—namely, steep, gnarly terrain that remains relatively untouched. Bowls, chutes, cliffs, short and long hikes are the flavours of the day. Terrain is accessed using high capacity rope tows and so called nutcrackers – more about that little adventure later!

After a 6 hour drive from Wanaka with Jake and Freeride World Champion Susan Mol, we arrived at the cosy alpine lodge nestled in the native bush of the Craigieburn valley. It had been absolutely pouring all day, so our expectations regarding the snow conditions weren’t too high. Furthermore, we were being pounded by gale force winds of up to 120 km/hr. The rope tows were forced to remain closed the following day, so we made use of a brief clearing to explore the area by foot, before it started snowing again in earnest.

Craigieburn's Siberia Basin, with 1st to 6th Gut visible in the background.

Craigieburn's Siberia Basin, with 1st to 6th Gut visible in the background.

Day 2 brought more snow and gale force winds, but luckily for us we were able to ski 5 runs before the rope tows were closed again due to the wind. However, the comp was on hold for today. But we did get to learn, albeit in extreme conditions, how to clamp our nutcracker onto a high speed rope for the first time. What scared me most were the pulleys which hold the rope in place – never once did I forget to take my hand off the rope so as not to get it caught in-between the rope and the pulleys. Without a doubt this day was one of the funniest ski experiences ever!

We were almost blown off the mountain but had a great time

We were almost blown off the mountain but had a great time

Day 3: The Expression Session

Really strong winds again today. The clouds whipped past the mountains so fast it looked like a time lapse. The top rope tow remained closed but that didn’t stop the event staff from organising an expression session in Gut 2 and 3. What looked like a ho-hum little area turned out to be a great playground showcasing the talents of the New Zealand freeskiers: getting super creative and throwing down in terrain a European skier would simply overlook. Super inspired and motivated, I joined the skiers and snowboarders in finding sketchy straight-lines and doing ollies over rocks at high speed, something I would otherwise not attempt. What a great day of skiing! To top it off, I was awarded the best female performance for skiing strong lines from top to bottom. A great way to end the Craigieburn Valley section of the 2009 Big Mountain Chill Series.

3rd place at the NZ Freeski Open big mountain finals!

August 16, 2009

I woke up to the sound of my alarm at 05:45 am on Saturday morning: it’s big mountain finals day! Competitors staying in Wanaka had to make an early start to make it to the Remarkables near Queenstown at 8:00 am. The decision to relocate the finals to the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables was made yesterday due to the high avalanche danger still present at Treble Cone. I had checked out the venue together with my mate Janina Kuzma yesterday and had mixed feelings about it. Snow conditions were definitely good thanks to the southern aspect of the Alta chutes (the shady aspect in the Southern hemisphere), but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the sharks (rocks hidden in the snow) or the “rock garden” style of terrain. Here, “billy goaters” would rejoice in the many lines they could hop through and around the rocks. But I made myself stay positive, it definitely wasn’t a bad venue.

The finals venue, the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables ski area

The finals venue, the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables ski area

Once I had chosen a line studying the photos I had made the day before, I definitely felt better. But during our inspection run, my heart sank. The main feature I had planned to drop was a no-go. The run out was much steeper and gnarlier than I thought – it meant I would have to straight line down the entire chute over rocks – too risky. Ok, I need an alternative…I quickly pieced together a new line, open but with some nice drops. More my style. Another quick look and I had to ski to the lift and hike up to the start.  10 minutes later I hear the head judge’s voice crackling over the radio: “the judges are ready for Lorraine Huber”. “Ok 5 seconds Lorraine”, you can drop in now.”

A few minutes before my start

A few minutes before my start

I hit my first bump, land, arching turns through the chopped-up, heavy powder, spot my first drop: a shelf on my right, dropped it, so far so good. I ended up further right than I had planned, but could get back to the shoulder on my left without stopping my flow, I had slowed down considerably though. I lined up my next drop, stomped it, and then…I just skied past my final and largest drop! All too quickly I was down at the bottom, panting. 70 seconds of high intensity skiing, but I hadn’t managed to ski what I wanted. Bugger! Man was I disappointed! But I couldn’t stay disappointed for too long hanging out in the sun with my mates and watching some amazing skiing from the guys.

Rebecka, Janina and I after our run

Rebecka, Janina and me after our run

After the comp I hiked back up the venue and skied my line again, this time as I had planed. For some reason I still haven’t managed to ski in competition as I usually do when skiing alone or with my mates.  Finding out why is a great challenge, one that I’m working on right now. Lets see how I go in the K2 Big Mountain Chill Series coming up at the end of the month.

In the end I was stoked to come 3rd at this comp, and especially to compete with skiers like Janina and Rebecka, who are both competing in the Freeride World Tour 201o. Visit the NZ Freeski Open website for video footage and full results.

It was awesome being on the podium with my mates

It was awesome being on the podium with my mates