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Freeride is Alive and Well in the Chill Mountains

  • 3 min read

Freeride is Alive and Well in the Chill Mountains

By Ollie Hunt.

MFC Syndicate, A group of local Canterbury Freeride skiers, ran a two day coaching session at Mount Olympus last year, this year they returned and held another - Chill contributor Ollie Hunt coached at both.

We (MFC Syndicate) ran a successful coaching weekend at Mount Olympus in 2017, it was a great learning experience for the coaches (Charlie and Craig Murray, Jamesa Hampton, and myself) and kids alike.

This year (2018) Allie Rood joined us, and it was fantastic to have some more diversity in our coaching group (Coaching freeride skiing also happens to be Allie’s job in the USA).

With a healthy interest in freeride skiing continuing from Canterbury’s up and coming skiers, it is really rewarding to pass on guidance and to watch them develop.

While we had the likes of Tom Dunbar, Todd Windle, Neil Williman, Charlie Lyons, and more to look up to in Canterbury, there were only limited opportunities to ski with them in a coaching basis.

There are well developed ski school programs at many commercial fields but freeride skiing doesn’t necessarily gel with a typical programme. - Testament to this is the fact Craig Murray, incidentally the youngest rider ever on the Freeride world tour, has had only two formal ski lessons in his entire career.

We had about 25 kids, between 8 and 17, and all crazy keen to ski. We were stoked to have kids from all around the South Island, the local Mt Olympus families, and the Powell brothers from Ruapehu joining once again. With the majority of the kids returning from our 2017 weekend, it was great to see significant progression from all.

It was also well-timed, with the kids already having completed a 2-day avalanche safety workshop with Anna Keeling – this obviously goes hand in hand with freeride and backcountry skiing

In keeping with our original approach (from 2017), we broke into two groups with 2 coaches (and Charlie roaming between) allowing us to give specific, directed, feedback to each of the kids.

Saturday didn’t present us with ‘ideal’ conditions for easy skiing, but it provided good practice conditions. With firm snow, variable in wind affected areas, we skied lines in steep, technical areas; anyone who skied the North Face Frontier Qualifier or Mt Olympus Freeride Open last year (or potentially any NZ Freeride competition ever) will attest to the importance of skiing challenging conditions well.

We skied all day (i.e. we barely visited the hut for lunch) and then made the most of the Après ski Facilities at Olympus while the field received snow overnight.
Craig was also kind enough to discuss some of his experiences with the older kids, who are not far from the junior pathway he followed.

Sunday presented us with more favourable conditions for more progressive skiing and some air time. Naturally, the majority of the kids gravitated towards Frozen Waves (Undulating wind lips accessed from the top tow) and proceeded to send countless flips.

There were a huge variety of first backflips and other epic firsts. For me, the highlight was watching Fynn Powell sending his first double Backflip off the infamous ‘Eggcup’ windlip. It was one of the most impressive I have ever seen, and he landed it first try!

Ollie Hunt is a regular feature writer for Chill and makes the most of a Chill Season Pass.