This past September, Snow Park, New Zealand hosted one of the most unique contests to ever hit the snowboard scene. The tone was one of camaraderie rather than competition, the pressure lay on the photographers more than the riders, and the panel of judges was easily one of the largest, most diverse groups to ever mediate a snowboard contest.
The Hemisphere Challenge consisted of two teams of four-one was a photographer and three riders from the Northern Hemisphere, and the other, a photographer and three riders from the Southern Hemisphere. Each day the two teams would collaboratively session a zone, then each team would submit five photographs to be posted on and voted on by you-the reader. The identities of the riders and the photographers were kept under wraps to discourage bias, and while speculation raged on the comment boards, everyone remained relatively incognito until the end of the competition.
As we all know, every great idea has a human behind it, and in this case the human is Frank Wells, the renowned cat driver, pipe cutter, and owner of Snow Park Technologies. Not only did Frank come up with the idea for the Hemisphere Challenge, but he also paid for the whole thing out of his own pocket. So obviously the best way to find out about Snow Park would be to talk to Frank. Good thing that’s what we did.

TWS: What gave you the idea for the Hemisphere Challenge?

Frank: It was actually my business partner, Sam Lee, and myself. Originally he came up with the idea of doing the photography battle, and then I kind of became the nuts and bolts-for instance, coming up with the idea of doing a halfpipe day and a backcountry day-that kind of stuff.

TWS: What was the goal you were trying to reach with the Hemisphere Challenge? What did you want to get out of it?

Frank: We really just wanted to give the Southern Hemisphere guys a chance to be seen on the global scene, because they’re strong riders, but all of the riders in the Southern Hemisphere struggle for coverage. The contest just gave the rest of the world a chance to see how sick the riding is.

TWS: A lot of time people kind of forget that photographers are involved in a great snowboarding photograph. Do you think this helped put emphasis on the photographers instead of just the riders?

Frank: I think it did absolutely-much more than we originally thought. When you only have one day to shoot in the pipe, it not only comes down to the riders riding, but to the photographers capturing it in a certain way. Having only five photos, you want each photo to have a different dynamic-and the way the photographers bonded-it was more like hanging out than a competition.

TWS: How was the crew? How did everyone work together?

Frank: It was the coolest. It didn’t feel like a contest at all. We were eating together, playing pool, drinking beers, and riding in a helicopter. It did exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted people who mixed well, and I think we definitely accomplished that.

TWS: Are you going to do this next year? What will you do differently?

Frank: I think we’ll definitely do this next year. I think the only difference is that we want to make it so that every photo is anonymous as opposed to having teams.

TWS: All right, well I guess that’s about it. Would you like to add anything else?

Frank: I’d like to mention that we’re offering vacation packages at Snow Park based on the eight days of the Hemisphere Challenge so that kids can have the experience of going heli boarding for a day, riding the park for a day, et cetera. The reason that I paid for this out of my pocket was so that we could make people more aware of all of the things we have to offer at Snow Park, so hopefully they’ll come visit.

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