What do you do when you blow a comp line?
K2 CHILL Big Mountain events draw out some heavy hitters
Although I had intended to compete in the K2 Big Mountain and Black Diamond Big Mountain events over the past three years, last year was my first time taking part in the series. When comparing the field of skiers to snowboarders, it was easy to see the difference as the male skiing division outnumbered the male snowboarding by about 3:1. Competitively this translated into about 10-15 skiers who could have made podium on any given run compared to the handful of stand out snowboarders.
Cragieburn patroler and Big Mountain Billy Goat, Ruari MacFarlane was back to defend his 2011 title after spending his northern-hemi season between the snow-laden Europe and interior B.C. Every competitor keeps an eye on Ruari as he is known to take some of the most unique lines down the competition face. He sent it on every competition day and scooped up a well-deserved first place.
Scott Heale, 2010/2011 WFT wildcard in Revelstoke, is currently travelling through his home country of NZ after setting up semi-permanently in Revelstoke B.C. He has been seen shredding his hand built splitboard harder than most people can ride their regular deck and scoping out competition venues around the Clubbies. He won the event and the Export Extreme in 2010 and is ripping this year. He put down some solid lines and ended up third on the podium.
Jordan Decker, another kiwi who has spent numerous years in B.C. is a contender on the circuit this year. He has a freestyle background but proved himself very capable on the big mountain scene after scooping up 2nd place at the 2010 and 2011 Export Extremes. Jordan put down some creative lines with big drops and was just edged out of third overall.
Antoine Blaizeau, the French contingent, shocked the entire field at the NZ Snowboarder Banked Slalom by winning with both his runs. Not only that, his top time was 18 seconds faster than 2nd place and 20 seconds faster than my spot in fifth. (SAVAGE). He is an ex-French Boarder Cross Champ and does seasons in the French Alps. Unfortunately Antoine was suffering from an injured ankle and couldn’t show us his full quiver of skills, but came in sixth place respectively
Dan Bond always seems to show up at these kind of events. His smooth confident style has carried him through numerous events in New Zealand and Europe with solid results. Dan hucked a big backflip on day 2 and earned himself a couple of podiums landing himself in fifth place overall.
As always, I am sure there will be other shred-dawgs who will take all of us by surprise, but these five are certainly my pick to look out for in the next competition.
After days, even weeks of anticipation it finally dumps. Being a local there is clearly only one place to be, and that is at the hill. But, with most of the storm cycles this year the snow has been followed by the dreaded thick and milky fog/low cloud layer masking the hidden gems of Treble Cone. This can make even the most experienced shredders nauseas and deter them from seeking out the stashes.
Some call it Soul Shredding or Braille Boarding others make witty jokes referencing cloud computing and the like, but anyway you describe it, the cloud can make or break your day. Here are some hot tips to keep a smile on your face when you’re high in the cloud.
Take out your splitboard on some mellow terrain you know really well. It is a good time to get your systems dialed before a critical pow day. Also visit the beacon park at the top of the Saddle in order to keep those skills fresh for everyone’s sake.
The Forgotten Club Field
Over the past two years I have made the annual pilgrimage to a mountain within the Chill Mountain Collective that rarely appears on most people’s hit list. Towering above the rest of peaks in the Two Thumb Range, Fox Peak offers access to expansive terrain, unique scenery and a historical perspective on Kiwi skiing as it is one of the oldest Clubs in New Zealand. Generally there aren’t more than 50 people on the field per day and seeing as it only opens on weekends unless booked in advance, good turns are guaranteed if the weather forecasting is spot on.
Fox Locals, 2010. Photo: Takahiro Nakanishi Photography
Just outside of Fairlie, the junction to Fox is clearly the beginning of a winding dead end road, aka – the perfect place for a hidden gem. There are no stops for forgotten ski poles, snowboard boots or lunches, so if you don’t have it, you don’t need it.
The road less travelled, 2010. Photo: Takahiro Nakanishi Photography
Prior to ascending the mountain road, you must choose to cross the very skinny single lane bridge, or the more adventurous route by fording the river. Once the moat has been cleared, the drive up is to be relished, as it feels much more like meandering up a farm track than racing up to a bustling ski field. When cresting the final hill to the car park, most people are surprised to see the simple single tow, yet on closer inspection the second tow disappears over the cresting slope and the imagination must guess what lies above and beyond.
Crowded day at Fox, 2010. Photo: Takahiro Nakanishi Photography
Rather than shell out half a weeks wage to enjoy a day on snow, Fox has a very reasonably priced day ticket at just $50 and the management seems to be open to deal making for those seeking just one lift for use of the backcountry. As the volunteer behind the counter is most likely head of patrol, they may ask about your equipment, experience level, and your objectives for the day. Share your plans as they are your first contact should something go wrong, and, they are most likely to know where the best snow is hidden.
Tasman Tow, 2010. Photo: Takahiro Nakanishi Photography
The first tow is perhaps one of the most friendly in all of the Clubbies, and having popped my nutcracker cherry there, I was completely unprepared for the fortitude needed to conquer the second and third tows. To make it up these lifts you must have the speed of a cheetah, the strength of an ox and the fitness of a gymnast, oh and not to mention, the determination of an 18 year old boy at a strip club. Do not feel like less of a man if it takes you more than five or ten attempts to get past the first pulley or if one of the friendly Fox Ambassadors offers extra assistance; it is all part of the fun.
If you’ve made it up all three tows then you will be rewarded with bountiful backcountry options in all directions. The North and South Basins as well as the peak offer couloirs, wide-open pow fields, and numerous cliff drops.
Bumping into the NZ Snowboarder Crew
Guided by long time local Matt White (Maddog), 2010.
Article in Issue #54, Fall 2011.
The weather, snow pack and time of year will aid in making the best decision for the day, but to make the most of it, you must have backcountry knowledge, skill and gear, at least one friend and good fitness. As I mentioned, I have only just scratched the tip of what Fox has to offer, but I certainly recommend taking the detour to check it out and explore.
NZ Snowboarder crew lining up a wind lip, 2010.
Chris Rogers of Wanaka making the most of the wind blown snow, 2010.
Photo: Takahiro Nakanishi Photography
Garden of Eden
The 23rd October 2011 was a historic night for New Zealand. But while nearly every kiwi throughout the world cheered the All Blacks on to win the Rugby World Cup Championship, eight of us watched lightening crack across the spring sky, reflecting off the surrounding mountaintops between thunderous booms. The patter of precipitation was constant. Three days into a 5-day backcountry splitboard trip in the Southern Alps of NZ, we were camped on a little known glacier called “The Garden of Eden.”
Here’s a few pics from the the and the full write up and photos is available on Colin Boyd’s website.