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ISSUE #94  2012 ANNUAL $12.95 incl. gst

Skiing the silk road postcards from japan traversing the southern alps return of extreme 2012 nz skier awards FREE 'Winter of wells' DVD


Sir Jossi 'Jib-A-Lot' Wells

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Castle made of snow

Words by Mark Von Roy Photos by Alessandro Belluscio

If you had even a mildly creative or expressive mind growing up as a child, chances are that you spent a bit of time sitting on the beach building sand castles. The fun thing about building sand castles is that you can let your imagination run wild and build absolutely anything you can come up with. I can remember when, in my early teens, freeskiing was predominantly on my mind during long summers. I used to build imaginary terrain parks and send little stick figures through the jumps. Perhaps I was a little old to be playing in the sand, pretending it was snow, but it was fun nevertheless. A few years ago some crazy European snow enthusiasts took the idea of shaping creative things out of malleable substances to an awesome pinnacle, and on a massive scale. They wanted to create a Big Air competition that was different to the rest, that not only allowed for progression of the sport but also let the mind wander to the land of fairy tales and beyond. They built a real castle made of snow, high in the European Alps. Incorporated in this Castle were massive jumps and unique jibs. Invited to come and session it for a week were the some of the best freeskiers and photographers on the planet.

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Getting

e m e t r Ex Words by Neil Kerr

When we think of extreme skiing we think of a golden era of skiing; skis were long and straight, and jump turns and fluoro were the fashion of the time.

Extreme skiing was a term coined back in the 70’s when early pioneers like Sylvain Saudan and Anselme Baud started exploring steep alpine descents around the French Alps. This handful of European’s were using their alpine climbing skills to access and ski the steepest terrain possible and were regarded by most of the ski community   as crazy. It wasn’t until the 80’s that ski movies like ‘The Blizzard of Aaaahhs’ and the antics of Scott Schmidt and Glen Plake opened the world’s eyes to extreme skiing. Although the American film stars were not skiing the same level of extreme as Saudan & Baud, their flamboyance and style made them instantly more marketable.   Their ski talents and personalities, along with the steep lines of Chamonix, made the movie a great success and spawned a new generation of skier. Those were the glory days of extreme skiing and while many ogled at the movie sections, the sport struggled to grow or make an impact into the mainstream ski world. It was too difficult, dangerous and only viable to a few. So extreme skiing faded into obscurity and back to the steep glaciated faces of Chamonix   where it had all started. Out of the ashes of the extreme movement arose a new sport called freeskiing. The practioners of freeskiing were essentially still skiing steep lines but they were doing it in a new way and   they had some new tools in their arsenal. Fat skis had arrived on scene and quickly revolutionized backcountry skiing, especially for those at the top of the game. These new skis were more stable and agile, allowing the next generation of movie stars – Seth Morrison and Shane McConkey – to rip massive faces in ten huge, fast flashy turns with ease and grace. Gone were the jump turns and billy-goating;, now all you needed was a run out and you could ski as fast as possible.

ding into the Passerelle

Seth Morrison descen

LA

TO: CHRISTIAN PONDEL

Couloir, Chamonix PHO

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Skiing the Silk Road

Two years ago, four friends of ours returned from a successful ski trip through Iran and Kashmir. At the time the whole concept of it had seemed crazy. It had been too dangerous, too different, too overtly reckless to even go there, let alone ski there. However their safe return, the snow and the pure adventure of their trip changed it all for us. The media had assured us that these places were dangerous; otherworlds, best left alone. And yet our friends brought back only stories of kind strangers willing to take in hungry skiers with a smile. Suddenly, an entire planet of skiable opportunities lay in front of us. Add a dash of romanticism, a good helping of bravado and two years’ salary and Skiing the Silk Road was born. Following in the footsteps of Marco Polo, we would begin our trip in Beijing. We would then travel overland to Venice, Italy, and ski in every country along the way. At the beginning it sounded like another good yarn, or just a fantasy – and it was. But it also inspired just the right emotions in ten of our closest friends to make it a reality. We had a yearning for adventure, and a desire to conquer our fear of the unknown. From then on a monumental organisational effort ensued; work place internet limits were tested, emails piled up and long-term deposits became, well, shorter term. Icebreaker and Kingswood got behind us with skis and clothes, and finally, in mid-December, we found ourselves in Auckland Airport, nervous but ready to fly to the Land of the Dragon. Our first ski destination was in the farthest reaches of North Western China, in a place we knew only as Altai. We didn't know how to get there or where we would stay. Basically we had seen a

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Altai China – looking towards the ski field PHOTO: blair smith

Words by Pete Sandston

YouTube video of some guys who had gone up to Altai to ski with the local villagers who, so the legend goes, were the first ever skiers. We were looking for the birthplace of skiing. A combination of language barriers and circumstance led the Chinese Government to think that we were some kind of NZ ski team – which we weren’t. But playing along, we found ourselves with a VIP escort to some of the most remote parts of NW China to find the fabled first skiers. What we found was an incredibly beautiful mountain culture that extends back thousands of years, to a time when skiing was in its purest form. Skiing began as a means of transport through deep snow, for hunting, commerce (and fun), in places where people were otherwise hard-pressed to survive. The skis themselves are truly awesome. A tree is cut by hand into a raw plank, the tip is bent upwards in a fire, holes are burnt for leather laces to create bindings and finally an animal skin is fixed to the base. Make two and there you have a pair of the world's first skis. Paintings of these have been dated back 10,000 years, possibly predating their European equivalents by up to 3,000 years. We also saw traditional games of goat-carcass polo, hilariously competitive crosscountry races and rode on horse-drawn sleighs on Christmas day. By early January, Altai had given us a cultural experience we scarcely could have dreamed of. We had found the birthplace of skiing and for a brief moment had been a part of it. We were there in the early season however, and the powder for which we searched was still to arrive. Skiing groomers at the local ski fields could only hold us for so long. It was time for the Stans. Goliath Kazakhstan was first on our list. After setting up camp in ex-soviet apartment blocks, we set out for Chimbulak and Akbulak ski resorts. It soon became clear that we were going to have to keep looking for that powder though, with barely enough snow cover to keep Chimbulak open and

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Click Here to see the trailer for Winter of Wells

Magazine also comes with a copy of the ‘Skiers Guide’ and a FREE DVD

-Winter of Wells-The Documentary-


NZ Skier 2012 - Teaser