Kicking off the Association of Freeskiing Professionals’ 2012/13 World Tour as well as the first Open international competition, there were some fresh faces on the podiums despite the heavy-hitting international field.

The slopestyle course was composed of several new features to Snowpark in 2012, starting with a street entry to close-out rail, then a technical rail feature consisting of three options, 35ft bonk feature, 50ft kicker, 80ft kicker before finishing with a 70ft double pole-jam rail feature to spine (affectionately renamed “the rock & roll horns”). Due to issues with warm temperatures and poor snow conditions, it proved impossible for Snowpark’s Park Crew to build specialised kickers for the girls, so the call was made after Slopestyle training that the 70ft Spine would be removed from the already intimidating Slopestyle course.

The Men’s competition was nothing short of staggering, with a strong mid-field and progressive riding from several unknowns taking them through to the semis. Beau-James Wells displayed impressive form through to the entire competition even though older brother and AFP world number three Jossi Wells didn’t make the finals. Beau-James claimed a 78.40 in the semis becoming the only male Kiwi to clinch a finals spot, finishing off in 8th place. Gus Kenworthy stepped up to land a switch double cork 1260 in the semi-finals, despite the fact the American and AFP World Tour number one entered with a broken wrist, deserving respect after placing out in 5th place overall.

The standout competitor of the Slopestyle was undoubtedly the young Swede Jesper Tjader, who scored second place after a solid run and stomping a creative 270 to front flip off the knuckle on ʻThe Hornsʼ feature. In third place was Jules Bonnaire from France, who impressed the judges with a style filled run, including a technical switch right bio 900 and a left rodeo 1080 tail grab.

In the end crowd favourite and old boy to the NZ Open Russ Henshaw went home with the NZ$6000 cheque scoring 84.80 out of 100. The X- Games medallist displayed an array of different skills in his run with a front 450 off the close out rail, a lip 270 on 270 out of the down rail followed by a switch 540 tap over the bonk feature. Over the jumps he dominated with a right double cork 1260 mute backed up with a switch left double rodeo 900 Japan, finishing up with a 450 off the infamous ʻRock and Roll Hornsʼ.

The Womens competition was a nail biter with the huge course testing the ladies to the maximum of their abilities. The semi-finals and finals were filled with crashes with many of the women not able to land their runs despite blue skies and great conditions. American Freeski Team member Emilia Wint dispelled any illusions that women were not up to hitting the course however landing a left 540, to switch left rodeo 540 critical and finishing off her run with the biggest 720 tweaked mute grab in Women’s competition history, which left the judges speechless.

Emilia was awarded a well-deserved 84.50 and NZ$3000 prize-cheque. In second place was Canadian Dara Howell, whose run included a 540, switch 540 and a massive 900. New Zealand’s very own Rose Battersby came in 3rd for the second year in a row, completing a stylish left 900 to finish her run.

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After three days of fair weather, our luck eventually gave out and athletes had to spend Saturdays AFP Gold Halfpipe Competition battling the poor weather conditions as wind and fog affected the pipe venue all day. As the Slopestyle melted in the background, the decision was made to consolidate the large qualifying fields into semi-finals in order to complete the competition, and after further discussion with the women, that they would compete in a 3-run straight final.

After several long hours, and an impressive show of technical tricks and big air despite the miserable snow conditions, the weather packed in completely causing the men’s final to be cut to one run. Nevertheless, freeski icon Tanner Hall stole the show with a smooth run down the pipe, including a big 900 tail, alley-oop 360 japan, a styled out switch 720 mute, right 900 safety, finished off with a 1080 tail; gaining a score 85.00 and first place. “I am so stoked to be back after four years of not competing, and coming back to win The North Face Freeski Open of New Zealand is the best feeling ever,” exclaimed Hall, followed by a modest acknowledgement of first place qualifier and local hero Jossi Wells.

Halfpipe World Champion Torin Yater-Wallace came in second after landing a massive run including a solid switch right 900 mute at the bottom, while in third place was the Frenchman Benoit Valentin, who impressed judges with huge amplitude and a clean double flair at the top. After qualifying in first, local boy Jossi Wells fell victim to the one-run final, ending up in fourth place despite skiing strongly all day.

On the ladies’ side of things, Norway’s Tiril Christiansen took home the title, with a phenomenal score of 88.20. Her run included two big right 540s with differing grabs and a solid right 720. Angeli Vanlaanen, of the USA, had to settle for second place with a score 87.00 on her last run which included a big 720 to finish, while Belgium’s Katrien Aerts went big all day and in combination with a lofty 540 mute, grabbed third place . Coming in fourth was The North Face Team Rider Janina Kuzma, famous for her big mountain excursions on the Freeride World Tour. Her run included both a left and right 540, however may have needed a little more amplitude to push her on the podium.




Although the TNF Freeski Open sits squarely in the middle of the New Zealand Spring, the Big Mountain competition seems destined to bring on the biggest week-long storm of the winter every year. Last year saw the qualifiers cut short to one run due to high winds and the final to be held in 1-2meter deep powder in white out conditions on the last of the 6 day weather window. The forecast was for a mixed report of gale-force winds, snow-storms and cloud cover, with some brief windows. The Qualifier was held on the second day of the window in fresh snow conditions but intermittent visibility. To mitigate the poor weather conditions riders followed in a “best of two runs” format, with a total of 56 competitors dropping down the Remarkables Shadow Basin, looking to qualify for the Finals in the Alta Chutes.

In the men’s division Austrian Fabio Studer took the top qualifier position with a fast and fluid run that included a number of airs and a styled out 360. In close second was Cantabrian Tom Brownlee, who has been steadily moving up the New Zealand freeriding ranks, most recently with a win at last week’s chill series at Mount Olympus. Third place qualifier was another Cantabrian and reigning champion, 17-year old prodigy freeskier George Pengelly, who would be awarded the “King of the Groms” Award for being the only under 18 year old to progress to the finals.

In the ladies competition the Swede, Tove Kockum, won the qualifier with a technical run that included a number of airs and some smooth and controlled skiing. Coming in second place, Wanaka local Anna Smoothy charged down the face with no hesitation, reminiscent of her brother Sam, a well-established skier on the Freeride World Tour. In third place was Alex Brook, who just managed to squeeze into the finals despite her strong performances in the Chill Series and Temple Basin Freeride.

After successfully pulling off the qualifiers, competition was postponed on day 3 and 4 due to 120kmph winds. The freezing level changed to 1800m on Thursday ruining the chalky powder that had filled in the finals venue, destroying morale all round as the weather was forecast only to worsen. On day 5 high winds and low temperatures saw the Remarkables Open for the first time in 3 days, and after extensive bombing of the entire mountain and eventually the venue, blue skies welcomed the TNF Freeski Open Big Mountain finals, and a one-run final kicked off at 2pm in surprisingly soft and fun conditions.

The final saw a fast and aggressive approach to the steep face, which was a mixture of the strong field and fast snow conditions. Stand outs included Cantabrian Tom Brownlee, who narrowly avoided skiing away from the biggest trick of the day – a flat spin 360 – just coming unstuck on the landing, Logan Swney who just missed landing an equally huge backflip and Sam Lee who skied a tight and extremely technical line, missing out on the podium by just 0.03 points.

In the women’s competition Australian Hannah Fisher impressed the judges with smooth skiing through the main shoot and some solid airs with no hesitations, giving her a score of 7.72 and the win. Her compatriot Nat Segal took 2nd with an aggressive and fast run. TNF Team rider Janina Kuzma rounded off the podium; she skied a similar line to Nat, yet lacked a little fluidity in comparison to the Australian.

The level of riding the men’s division was ridiculously competitive, with all top 5 riders within 0.5 points of each other. American B Devine blew the judges out of the water with a creative run including a 180 at the top to switch 180 over a drop. He then backed it up with two more solid airs with a big 360 on the second air. Austrian Fabio Studer took 2nd with a fast run including an awesome hand-drag 360 in his run. Christchurch local Charlie Lyons, who recently qualified for the upcoming Freeride World Tour, skied a precise and technical run with absolutely no flaws, helping him to third place.

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