How the New Zealand Freeski Open Began
The early 2000s saw freeski on the rise in New Zealand. A young Jossi Wells was making a name for himself on the world stage, Snow Park, the world’s first dedicated freestyle training ground had opened in 2002 and junior riders were stomping their mark on the then Freeski Nationals. The freeski community could see their sport had a good looking future but a more defined pathway was needed. 2005 saw the launch of two new events: The Junior Nationals and the Freeski Open of NZ. Within a decade the Freeski Open of NZ had become one of the biggest freeski comps in the world and the only one to offer the unique combination of park, pipe and freeride events.
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The 2016 Change to The North Face® Frontier
While a decade of hosting the best freeskiers in the world and providing them a stepping stone on to the international stage had established The North Face Freeski Open of NZ as a crucial event on the competition calendar, changes in the sporting landscaping meant this well-loved event also need to adapt.
New Zealand freeride had an abundance of talent but lacked a clear pathway. Kiwi Snowboarders as well as skiers were landing themselves on the podium at international freeride events but there were no big mountain events on offer for them back in NZ. Meanwhile, bold young talent in the form of freeskiers Sam Lee, Hank Bilous, Charlie and Craig Murray looked set to charge down a path forged by Sam Smoothy, Charlie Lyons and Janina Kuzma all the way to the Freeride Tour.
At the other end of the spectrum, park and pipe events for both skiers and snowboarders were being well looked after by world-class events such as the Audi Quattro Winter Games NZ, with the increasingly important FIS World Cup points and a pathway to Olympic qualification on offer.
In 2016 Snow Sports NZ, along with the event’s major sponsor The North Face, made a call to revamp The Freeski Open, focusing on the big mountain event and opening it to snowboarders as well as skiers. A trial run of a snowboard freeride event in 2015 had already been well received. The event would be sanctioned at the top level as a four-star event on the Freeride World Qualifier with the aim of attracting top level competitors from around the globe and giving home grown talent a chance to rack up early season qualifying points in their own backyard.
With a new format came a new name: The North Face Frontier, to reflect both the history and the future of an event which has always been proud to be pioneering, progressive and ground breaking.