Madness of Rip Curl World Heli Challenge contest set to kick off on Wednesday (August 1).

Cheers of anticipation filled the lakefront cottage housing some of the world’s best new school skiers and snowboarders with the forecast of fresh snow in the surrounding mountains of Wanaka, New Zealand * home to the Rip Curl World Heli Challenge.

Seventy elite athletes from around the planet have checked-in at the sleepy lakefront resort of Lake Hawea (population 200) in New Zealand’s Southern Alps for a freeskiing and snowboarding event like no other in the world.

Following forecasts of snow and associated weather fronts over the next two days, organiser Tony Harrington has scheduled Wednesday (August 2) as the first day of competition. The madness kicks off with a freeride day in which skiers and snowboarders are dropped by helicopter onto the 2,225m Mt Aeoulos in the South Island’s Mt Aspiring National Park.

“Competitors will come down the mountain and pull off jumps of 50ft to 100ft through the air, with multiple twists and ‘new school’ moves; somersaults, grabs*basically the person who puts on the most explosive display while remaining in control is the person who wins,” said Harrington.

In the two-week event waiting period, helicopters fly on three days for the three different disciplines; the Freeride Day, Extreme Day and Chinese Downhill (speed racing) event. “The Extreme Day will see competitors take on 1,000 vertical feet of steep terrain, negotiating cliff bends with big, spectacular jumps in extreme situations. Together with the Freestyle Day, Extreme Day and Chinese Downhill, you’ll get to find out who is the best free skier and snowboarder in the world,” said Harrington.

Among the competitors this year is former world extreme ski champion Chris Davenport (USA) and all-time snowboard legends and long-time rivals, Matt Goodwill (USA) and Steve Klassen (USA). New Zealand competitors including Sam Hazledine, Hamish Acland, Rene Hollis, Todd Windle and Andrew Gowans, are up against top athletes from Australia, Austria, Switzerland, USA, Canada, UK, Spain and Slovakia.

Five helicopters * flown by local pilots * will whisk competitors into their snow-capped playing field in the Southern Alps, where the scenery alone is spectacular enough to draw the best in the world to New Zealand to play.

“The event is unique to the world because it is so spectacular. From the top of the freestyle event on Wednesday you will be able to see Mt Cook ahead, Mt Aspiring just behind, oceans to the west and blue lakes below. It’s 100 percent pure New Zealand.”

In the meantime, the snowboarders and skiers will pass the time on the mountains surrounding Wanaka and take a trip to New Zealand’s west coast for a totally different style of competition * a surfing expression session at Jacksons Bay.

For more information contact Alison Smith at alisonsmith99@hotmail.com.