ISSUE #95 2013 ANNUAL
2013 GEAR GUIDE
NEW ZEALAND'S #1 SKI MAGAZINE
ISSUE #95 2013 ANNUAL $12.95 incl. gst
YOUR WINTER BIBLE
2013 GEAR GUIDE • TRAVEL STORIES • SKIER AWARDS EPIC IMAGES • TASMAN GLACIER
WORLD'S SOUTHERNMOST SKI CLUB It’s Christmas day and Scott Base Ski Club president Mike Rowe has just declared the world’s southernmost ski field open for the season. There’s about two inches of fresh Antarctic snow on the ground, the sun is shining, and everyone’s ready to hit up the virgin slope. Ski hire, for those who didn’t bring their planks to the pole, is free. Skis, boards, boots and tow belts are stored in a wannigan (a fancy name for a container) and an Antarctica New Zealand field support staff member is on gear duty. There’s a BBQ ready to go, with a bag of sausages on hand, and speakers playing music. The two robust Hagglunds which brought the team of Kiwi and American skiers to the field, wait patiently to return everyone to base – about four or five kilometres away.
Words and Images by Anna Pearson
The rope-tow starts at 10 metres above sea level, and ends at about 100m. It’s silent at the top, away from the hum of the generator, and White Island and Black Island are off in the distance. Scott Base mechanic Martin “Molly” Meldrum, who has set the field up for four seasons now, sits on a plastic chair by the emergency stop button and takes in the field – satisfied. Molly towed the electric motor out a few days earlier, linked it up with a diesel generator and dragged the rope up the hill. He says the current tow was acquired in the 2007/2008 summer. The ski club used the wheels of a big old 6WD diesel truck to turn the rope before then. There’s a green, tatty, leather-bound book in a cupboard at Scott Base which records, in thick biro, the club’s official inauguration on October 16 1961. It’s a treasure-trove of photographs, faded newspaper clippings, club rules, typed and hand-written minutes from meetings and names of past members. There’s a letter from the late Edward "Eddie" Shackleton, dated December 18 1985, to then club secretary Linda Harrison. “Many thanks for your letter of 9th December which arrived today, together with the splendid Scott Base Ski Club patch. My secretary has offered to sew this on to my ski jacket, so I cannot wait to impress all my friends on the slopes!” >>>
Top Left: The entrance to the TAE (Trans-Antarctic Expedition) hut, which was New Zealand’s first building at Scott Base Bottom Left: Antarctica New Zealand field trainer Anthea Fisher, left, and Charlie Wilkinson at a field training camp near the Kiwi Ski Hill
Staff from McMurdo Station, the American base, chat to a driver on a flagged route at the edge of the Kiwi Ski Hill NZSKIER.COM 32
HELI-SKIING GEORGIA Words by Sam Smoothy | Images by Tero Repo
Georgia. The country, not the southern state. A country where road markings become slalom gates, where the horn is the crucial car part and where a pub-brawl of passion just kicked off in customs as I stepped out into a country that I would soon fall in love with. A tumbling mix of old and new, of Ladas firing past sparkling Mercedes Benz and of homemade chacha liquor which instantly killed all bacteria we had picked up on this less travelled road.
Back In The USSR
We happened to be Tero Repo, Phil Meier, William Mermoud and myself and made up one crew filming for the Junkies on a Budget project in Europe. Phil had made a trip out before on a Georgian tourism venture and, with a little convincing and promises of adventure, had signed the rest of us reprobates up. I had nothing on Georgia and had done no research. No preconceived ideas, I held a fresh slate to record this delve into the Causcaus Mountains where Gudauri Heliski perches. I did not even know where Gudauri was. Arriving at a very blurry 5am enlightened me little, until rising much later in the Shamo Guesthouse to muddied cows outside the door. Mercifully a solitary sheep understood my mumblings and we herded them up the road towards the mountains. The mountain is part of a giant range that runs up to 5,500m and one we could fly anywhere up to 3,800m. Anywhere, that was, except for over, under and around the very vague and shifting borders that make up the area. With a supremely complex history and one I only got the Georgian side of, it is an area that has been fought over almost to this day. Once part of the Soviet Union it announced its independence in 1991 only to descend into a bitter civil war not resolved until 2003 when the Rose Revolution introduced democratic and economic reforms. Complicating things further, the Russo-Georgian war of 2008 left the Georgian area of South Ossetia, directly beside Gudauri, still under Russian military occupation. >>>
Across the valley from Gudauri was an ancient monastery, completely isolated and accessible only via helicopter. Mid shoot we were told this monk needed evacuation due to a leg injury so we picked him up in the heli. An odd addition to the day.
Loading and unloading a helicopter solo definitely made me feel like a full on pro skier, like all the heroes you see on the big screen. NZSKIER.COM 52
The film is cut with many references to nature, here Candide does his best impression of the local mountain goat. Image by Ducasse/Quiksilver
FEW WORDS Words by Anna Smoothy
On my way to another epic northern winter I chanced upon the London premiere of ‘Few Words’. The movie traces the life and career of Candide Thovex, the enigmatic Frenchman who has left his own indelible mark on freeskiing over the last 15 years. Despite the constant documentation of his skiing talents, Candide has retained a kind of mystique, shying away from the limelight. Few Words, which is filmed and directed by Taupo native Matt Pain, offers an insightful look into the world and mindset of the little French maestro. Candide Thovex’s skiing achievements leave him at the top of a high, seemingly insurmountable peak. Presiding over freestyle and freeride at different points in his career, no other skier has come close to his accomplishments. He is that rare athlete who has been able to excel in two drastically different disciplines, the phrase: ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none’ does not apply here.
The jostling between freeride and freestyle skiers has been around since freeskiing’s inception, it is a healthy competitiveness derived from the significant differences between the two sports. The lifestyle, the skis, and the skill-set vary hugely from park to backcountry. Candide was a pioneer in bridging the gap between the two areas and the progression he started a decade ago is now coming to the fore with backcountry freestyle events and park style tricks seen at Freeride World Tour (FWT) events. Despite this new wave of progressive, multi-skilled athletes, Candide still stands alone being the only skier to consistently take out the biggest competitions across all genres. One of the most respected athletes in the international freeski community, Candide began as a mogul skier. Perfecting his aerial skills and technique in the bumps in Col de Balme – a freeride paradise in the Aravis area of the French Alps. Inspired by the creativeness of freestyle snowboarding and feeling the constraints of the judging criteria and coaching regimes of mogul skiing, Candide took his skills to the terrain parks. In 1999, as a 16 year old, Candide burst into the limelight when he became the first person to clear the infamous Chad’s gap (a huge natural backcountry jump near Alta, Utah). He did it with unparalleled style, holding his mute grab the whole way, and in doing so showed the wider mountain community that skiers had arrived in the freestyle arena. Although this gave Thovex a lot of exposure and respect it wasn't until 2000 that he hit the big time when he took out his first major title; the X-Games Big Air. From here he went from strength to strength, and over the next 5–6 years positioned himself at the top of the freestyle world. He added more X-Games titles in halfpipe and slopestyle and created his own pioneering invitational event. >>>
TWO WINTERS AT BROKEN RIVER
Everyone has their own angle on why the club fields are different to other ski areas. Some people think it’s because they’re so quiet. Words by John Horan | Images by Joe Harrison Others say there is a uniquely kiwi “vibe”, or friendly atmosphere found nowhere else. For some people, the answer is found in the faces they recognise in the day lodge or even the cash left in their wallet after they buy a lift pass.
Part Of The Story
Here’s my theory: Club fields are made of stories. Each day – even each season – of skiing is over pretty quickly. Once it’s gone all that’s left are memories, stories and the occasional core shot. At a commercial field, those stories are passed around on the car trip home, before calcifying into that lump of obsession that keeps you watching the snow reports at work. But the club fields are small enough, and the communities close enough, that your exploits that day quickly take on a life of their own. Before you’ve even made it back to the car you’re a character in a small part of the saga of a ski field. Take my own club, Broken River, as an example. Nestled in a sheltered basin in the Craigieburn Range along Highway 73 near Christchurch, it’s not immediately clear what makes BR unique. All the other club fields have their niche. Mt Olympus is the cool fun party hill, Craigieburn is steep and gnarly, Temple Basin is hardcore, Awakino is ghetto, Fox Peak is awesome but inconvenient, Mt Cheeseman is lame, and so on. But BR doesn’t have a convenient marketing handle. Its terrain isn’t as highly rated as some other hills, it doesn't have family friendly T-Bars, skiing there for more than a week doesn't necessitate a liver transplant, and no one carries an ice axe with them when they want to hike some turns. Like the awkward kid at high school with the unfashionable shorts, BR isn’t really sure what it’s all about. And yet, despite this vague identity, Broken River is bound together by its stories into a strong and welcoming community. I have never met the local legend Isaac, but I have heard all about his monumental achievements in the field of fried egg consumption, or the time he and three other clubbies ran their car off the edge of the Mt Cheeseman access road. These stories and many others are part of the fabric of the club. They turn a few lodges and some rope tows into the centre of a community. While the official history (going back to 1951) is set out in the excellent Castles in the Air by club pillars Claire and Leith Newell, the real stories that make up the club are those that have been passed from person to person, amplified and filtered by the vagaries of memory and endless retelling. I have made a point of not reading Castles in the Air, so that if anything I subsequently write is wrong I can only be accused of wilful ignorance, rather than outright dishonesty. >>>
John Horan telemarking the open powder face at Broken River.