Rising to the challenge in New Zealand


Sixty of the world’s top skiers and snowboarders, including a mixture of world champions, Olympians, legends and a smattering of underdogs converged on Wanaka, New Zealand this week and last to participate in one of the most prestigious freeride events on the calendar, the World Heli Challenge (WHC).

The annual event, which was founded in 1995, discontinued in 2001 and resurrected in 2009, features big-mountain and freestyle ski and snowboard contests. Competitors at both the Extreme Day and Freestyle Day were treated to a perfect window of fresh powder, sunshine and epic Southern Alps terrain.

Skier Jacqui Edgerly (USA) and snowboarder Will Jackways (NZ) took center stage at the World Heli Challenge ION Showcase Awards on Aug. 16, as the they were named the XFactor awardees for the 2012 competition.

In a first for the WHC, skiers and snowboarders competed together for the top spots with only one male and one female taking the honors. Narrowly missing the top spots were snowboarder Abby Lockhart (NZ) and skiers Natalie Segal (Australia) and Markus Eder (Italy).

Edgerly and Jackways were chosen based on their overall aggressive performance and not necessarily on points earned during the competition.

“Jaqui (Edgerly) took the prize for Alaska for her determination and amazing line choice pushing her limits,” said head ski judge Dion Newport. “Showing why she was invited to the WHC by skiing a line on the extreme day that had a lot of exposure and risk. Not landing her run put her back in second position but her amazing show for the camera’s and viewers earned her the XFactor Award.”

“Will (Jackways) stood out during both days of competition,” said head snowboard judge, Mike Hygemann. “He had an amazing first run in the freestyle day where he showed great control and use of terrain pulling off 360 spins, a tail grab air, a method air and an indy…an excellent run from the kiwi. The extreme day saw him taking a very challenging line which he executed with aggression and style.”

In addition to competitor awards for best performances on the snow, the best images and cinematography captured throughout the two-week event in the Canon Shootout were also screened and announced to the packed Wanaka Centre audience and to a global audience via live webcast.

The finale to the evening was the announcement of the 2012 World Heli Challenge champions. The athletes were able to share their winning runs on-screen at the event.

Freestyle Day

Snowboard Women


1. Abby Lockhart (NZ)

2. Ratty Sheidow (AUS)

3. Jett Elkins (USA)

Snowboard Men
1. Will Jackways (NZ)
2. Shin Biyajima (JPN)

3. J.J. Thomas (USA)

Ski Women

1. Natalie Segal (AUS)

2. Jacqui Edgerly (USA)

3. Victoria Beattie (AUS)

Ski Men
1. Markus Eder (ITA)

2. Sam Smoothy (NZ)

3. Nick Devore (USA)

Extreme Day

Snowboard Women

1. Abby Lockhart (NZ)
2. Ratty Sheidow (AUS)

3. Jett Elkins (USA)

Snowboard Men

1. Will Jackways (NZ)

2. Shin Biyajima (JPN)

3. Antti Autti (FIN)

Ski Women

1. Natalie Segal (AUS)

2. Jacqui Edgerly (USA)

3. Victoria Beattie (AUS)

Ski Men
1. Neil Williman (NZ)
2. Markus Eder (ITA)

3. Nick Devore (USA)

Overall

The overall winners (best all around skiers and snowboarders) were chosen for their performance over the two days of competition (Extreme Day and Freestyle Day).

Top Three Female Skiers

1. Natalie Segal (AUS)

2. Jacqui Edgerly (USA)

3. Victoria Beattie (AUS)

Top Three Male Skiers

1. Marcus Eder (ITA)

2. Sam Smoothy (NZ)

3. Nick Devore (USA)

Top Three Female Snowboarders

1. Abby Lockhart (NZ)

2. Ratty Sheidow (AUS)

3. Jett Elkins (USA)

Top Three Male Snowboarders

1. Will Jackways (NZ)

2. Shin Biyajima (JPN)

3. Antti Autti (FIN)

Event organizers continued with the innovative online judging format, drawing on the experience of internationally regarded judges from around the world to review each run and analyze in detail when deciding this year’s winners. Dion Newport and Mike Hygemann were the onsite ski and snowboard judges and were able to consult with the “virtual” judges about the day’s conditions and any other specifics that may not have been discerned from the videos.

Photos courtesy of World Heli Challenge

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