The Search was on in earnest for day two of the Rip Curl World Heli Challenge * the Backcountry Heli Chinese Downhill Day. The Rip Curl event again showcased what sets it apart from any other contest in the world – the ability to access vast areas of untracked mountain terrain only a helicopter ride away from civilisation. This was day two of a three day format aimed at finding the best all-round freeriders in the world.

While hordes of snow enthusiasts in New Zealand made do with hard-packed resort runs, 63 of the worlds best skiers and snowboarders gathered deep in the Mt Aspiring National Park for the Chinese Downhill event. This years chosen site was the spectacular 7,000 plus foot Mt Brewster, a steep and radical peak running into a crevice littered glacier that had only ever been accessed by a lucky handful of locals until today due to it being deep in the backcountry of a National Park.

Chinese Downhill is competition in its purest form, testing the limits of courage and ability as competitors race at lightening fast speed down steep undulating terrain in a ‘no rules, first to the bottom wins’ format. It was unanimously agreed that today’s races were the most challenging in the event’s five year history, with both skiers and snowboarders reaching speeds of up to 110 kph down the 1.5 km virgin slope.

As Event Director Tony Harrington put it.

“This place is a jewel, I’ve been waiting five years to bring the event to this amazingly beautiful place and today the dream came true. New Zealand’s mountains at their finest”.

The reaction of the competitors to the one and a half kilometer course run on variable wind affected powder snow ranged from awe, to praise, to out-right fear. A sharp drop-away half way down the course which the competitors hit at top speed caused a number of big falls, but no major injuries were incurred. Reigning snowboarding champion and current Queen of The Hill champ Karleen Jeffery (CAN) summed it up best:

“This here was probably the most gnarly Chinese Downhill run in the world. It was awesome, the most terrifyingly fun course I’ve ridden. It was so fast, you actually had to try to keep some sort of a check on your speed, and the drop-away in the middle of the course was gnarly.”

Head judge Cisco Oldlani was glowing in his praise of the athletes, recognising that at least limbs if not life were on the line.

“The riders and skiers would have been hitting 110 kph – that’s as fast as you’d drive down the road in your car.”

Jeffery conquered the challenging terrain to claim another victory in the women’s snowboarding, using her considerable skills and outright bravery honed in the mountains of Alaska to triumph over local New Zealand girl Julianne Bray.

World number two ranked boardercross racer Marguerite Cossettini (AUS) landed third position, acknowledging a little luck needed in negotiating a few out of control competitors and adding:

“That’s why they usually have this day of competition last, it’s a full contact sport.”

Nineteen year old Alaskan snowboarder Ashley Call drew on the courage of youth to bust open an elite international men’s field displaying an all out attack style, an amazing achievement.

“This event is screwball, totally wild, there were people flying all over the place. The key for me was not turning. There ain’t no strategy, just point it down the hill and go fast!” he said.

Extreme snowboarding legend Matt Goodwill (USA) came in a very close second with Australian rider Tim Vlandis third. Snowboard speed specialist, Rip Curl’s Jayson Onley from Australia, led the world class field for over half the steep course before a spectacular high speed crash ended his hopes of back to back victories in the Chinese Downhill.

“There was no way I was going to turn,” said Onley. “I guess I put it all on the line and went straight down the hill, but I unexpectedly took huge air, and landing at that speed was near impossible. I just exploded”.

Americankier Charlotte Moats emerged victorious in the woman’s ski event. Drawing on a background of downhill racing and some smart tactics she blitzed the field with smooth swooping turns down the steep and long course.

“You just had to get out in front, you really wanted to keep away from all the other riders ’cause you could easily get taken out. I’m so happy everything just went to plan. I got a little more air than I wanted but I was just trying to stomp that one high speed air,” she said.

Young Australian skier from Mount Hotham, Andrea Binning, continued her good form in the Rip Curl World Heli Challenge to take second place, with overall reigning champion Samala Singer coming in third.

New Zealand speed merchant Geoff Small, who won last years Downhill, came from behind in the men’s skiing event to make it back to back victories.

“I’m stoked, I knew what I had to do and just did it. I cruised up the top of the course, I knew no one could point it from the top and then over the roller in the middle I just went for it. I’m so happy, but they’ll be coming after me next year,” he said.

French skiers Stephan Lagarde and Guerlain Chicherit, current World Extreme Skiing Champion, battled out a hard fought duel for second and third positions.

Rip Curl’s event manager Paul Lacy commented:

“Today’s event was incredible. To be in such a beautiful and remote alpine location and witness the worlds best freeriders going ballistic was an incredible experience. And everyone had so much fun. It was full adrenalin but everyone had grins from ear to ear. These competitors are a very special breed of people. Incredibly talented and so free in their approach to life in general”.

Commenting on the unique nature of this event in that it combines both skiers and snowboarders in the one event, head ski judge Dan Warbrick commented:

“These people share a passion for mountains. It really doesn’t matter to them whether someone rides down a mountain on one plank or two. It’s just about having fun, and putting beautiful turns on steep mountain faces with your buddies”.

With only one day of the three day Rip Curl World Heli Challenge competition remaining – the Backcountry Heli Extreme Day * event organisers will utilise the remaining week’s waiting period to hold off for more fresh snow which is expected in the next few days.

Overall results after the first two days of competition are as follows:

Men
Place Name Nation Points

1 DAVID PUJOL SPAIN 189.44

2 ANDRE SPINELLI ALASKA 188.16

3 TIM VLANDIS AUST 187.00

4 ASHLEY CALL ALASKA 186.76

5 AXEL PAUPORTE BELG 184.03

6 CHUCK CLASBY ALASKA 182.69
7 MATT GOODWILL USA 180.48

8 RICHARD HEGARTY AUST 176.54
9 STEPHAN ROUTIN FRANCE 174.78
10 JAYSON ONLEY AUST 170.83

11 MATT RIGBY USA 167.85

12 STEVEN ROZENDAAL USA 167.53

13 NICOAS MARDUEL FRANCE 166.82
14 JAISON LEROY USA 164.50

15 REON MORLAND NZ 153.66

16 CHRIS MCKENZIE NZ 152.61

17 DANIEL KNEITEL AUST 152.39

18 PHILLIPPE BATAILLE FRANCE 151.76

19 OLLY BURKE NZ 148.44

20 JIRO AIDA JAPAN 143.38

21 TODD MASON AUST 131.37

JEREMY JONES USA 83.19

TEMPLE CUMMINS USA 76.23

PIERRE YVES LEBLANC CAN 72.33

SHAUN MCCOOMB NZ 65.37

Women
Place Name Nation Points

1 KARLEEN JEFFERY CAN 198.02

2 JULIANNE BRAY NZ 195.11

3 MARGUERITE COSSETTINI AUST 170.53

4 RENE HOLLIS NZ 152.89

5 JULIE LARSON USA 151.98

6 LUCY MARCUS USA 150.41

7 ALLIE SHIELDS USA 140.11

8 JAKKY ROBERTSON NZ 50.04



Skiers – Men
Place Name Nation Points

1 GUERLIN CHICHERIT FRANCE 198.20

2 SEBASTIEN MICHAUD FRANCE 194.79

3 XAVIER TROUBAT FRANCE 184.74

4 PIERRE YVES LE BLANC CAN 180.07

5 DAVE “GRAVY” KEAM AUST 179.27

6 PAUL AHERN NZ 173.58

7 STIAN HAGEN NORWAY 172.72

8 GEOFF SMALL NZ 172.35

9 ROBBIE CAPELL USA 161.87

10 STEPHAN LAGARDE FRANCE 160.46
11 NIGEL MCKISSOCK NZ 158.61

12 HAMISH ACLAND NZ 155.80

13 SAM MASTERS AUST 154.66
14 FRANK PICKELL USA 149.17

15 TAKAYA MAEDA JAPAN 147.28

16 MATT DUNCAN NZ 123.47

17 ANDREW GOWANS NZ 113.70

18 WILL BURKS USA 113.43

19 STEPHAN DAN FRANCE 95.26

20 SAM HAZELDINE NZ 77.13

ROBERTO PUENTE SPAIN 64.37

BRAD HOLMES USA DNF

Skiers – Women
Place NameNation Points

1 ANDREA BINNING AUSTRALIA 185.67

2 CHARLOTTE MOATS USA 168.78

3 SAMALA SINGER AUSTRALIA 165.64

4 JENIFFER BERG USA 157.28

5 SARAH NEWMAN NZ 152.46

6 JOHANNA MATTSON SWEDEN 115.04

7 SARAH SPENCER NZ 78.07

4 RENE HOLLIS NZ 152.89

5 JULIE LARSON USA 151.98

6 LUCY MARCUS USA 150.41

7 ALLIE SHIELDS USA 140.11

8 JAKKY ROBERTSON NZ 50.04



Skiers – Men
Place Name Nation Points

1 GUERLIN CHICHERIT FRANCE 198.20

2 SEBASTIEN MICHAUD FRANCE 194.79

3 XAVIER TROUBAT FRANCE 184.74

4 PIERRE YVES LE BLANC CAN 180.07

5 DAVE “GRAVY” KEAM AUST 179.27

6 PAUL AHERN NZ 173.58

7 STIAN HAGEN NORWAY 172.72

8 GEOFF SMALL NZ 172.35

9 ROBBIE CAPELL USA 161.87

10 STEPHAN LAGARDE FRANCE 160.46
11 NIGEL MCKISSOCK NZ 158.61

12 HAMISH ACLAND NZ 155.80

13 SAM MASTERS AUST 154.66
14 FRANK PICKELL USA 149.17

15 TAKAYA MAEDA JAPAN 147.28

16 MATT DUNCAN NZ 123.47

17 ANDREW GOWANS NZ 113.70

18 WILL BURKS USA 113.43

19 STEPHAN DAN FRANCE 95.26

20 SAM HAZELDINE NZ 77.13

ROBERTO PUENTE SPAIN 64.37

BRAD HOLMES USA DNF

Skiers – Women
Place NameNation Points

1 ANDREA BINNING AUSTRALIA 185.67

2 CHARLOTTE MOATS USA 168.78

3 SAMALA SINGER AUSTRALIA 165.64

4 JENIFFER BERG USA 157.28

5 SARAH NEWMAN NZ 152.46

6 JOHANNA MATTSON SWEDEN 115.04

7 SARAH SPENCER NZ 78.07