We’ve been trolling back through the history books (thanks NZ Skier Magazine!) and reliving the glory days of old! Here’s an article Hamish Acland wrote back in 2011 explaining how The Freeski Open of NZ came to be, along with a few of its defining moments – Geoff Small’s winning line at the 2005 Big Mountain and the ‘technical wizardry’ of a young Jossi Wells which won him the 2006 Slopestyle.
Reproduced with the kind permission of NZ Skier Magazine:
From Rookie to Pro
Thanks to the ever-increasing amounts of ‘groms’ competing at the then Freeski Nationals, it was decided the event needed to evole and in 2005 the Junior Nationals and Freeski Open kicked off, creating a pathway from rookie to pro.
The Juniors focused on the rising ski talent of eight year olds through to teenage competitors. Skiers would descend on Cardrona each spring to put down their best runs in halfpipe, slopestyle, skier-X and freeride. This combination of disciplines at one event is unique in the world, but it is now also a key strength that sets the event apart. In 2006 snowboarding joined the event and while the competitions are separate, they both take place at the same venues, sharing courses to create a grom fest atmosphere.
The Junior Nationals has grown into a melting pot of progression, and kids train all season for this, their pinnacle event. And when you witness a young skier such as George Pengelly spinning a 360 off a mini step-down cliff on hard pack in the freeride comp, you know the future of the sport is in good hands.
If the Junior Nationals fosters talent, the Freeski Open now spring boards it on to the international stage. Whilel a small event in comparison to the likes of X Games it is still able to attract many of the world’s best skiers each season thanks to being in the off season to the major events.
In its inaugural year, the Freeski Open did as designed and saw a young Jossi Wells taking on X Games medalist Charles Gagnier in the rail event. Ahead of its time, the event had a remote control helicopter filming the competitors as they threw down on a world-class course at Snow Park.
Some other notable performances over the years include Geoff Small in 2005 taking the Big Mountain title at Treble Cone with a line that included what is now known as Smallies Gap: a transfer air that requires a precise landing. 2006 saw a Trans Tasman battle un-fold between Jossi Wells and Russ Henshaw in slopestyle. Wells’s technical wizardry on the rails became the deciding factor taking the title.
2006, Canadian Kaya Turski almost landed the first switch 1080 in women’s slopestyle competition.
A new era in freeride emerged in 2007, with Sam Smoothy winning the Heli Accessed finals. 2008 saw the most medalled skier in X game history American Tanner Hall taking first in the pipe. In 2009, Jossi Wells took the title in halfpipe for the first time, this kicked off an onslaught of podiums he finished the northern season crowned AFP Halfpipe World Champion. Slopestyle in 2009 saw the emergence of the double cork with many firsts put down in competition, Bobby Brown. Canadian Kaya Turski almost landed the first switch 1080 in women’s slopestyle competition.
Janina Kuzma took the first ever-double victory in 2009 winning both the halfpipe and big mountain competitions. Kuzma dominance continued winning the Big Mountain title in 2010 her 5th straight title.
With the skiing world once again turning its eyes to New Zealand, the question is who will make it into the history books this year?