One of the world’s most unique ski contests, the World Heli Challenge, shuttles athletes by helicopter to compete on some of New Zealand’s best backcountry terrain in Mount Aspiring National Park. Two days of competition—a freestyle day and an extreme day—require skiers and riders to give the best that they’ve got.
Because of the unique venue associated with this event, no spectators are allowed, and it’s difficult for judges to be on-site. The panel of judges would observe each rider’s run through binoculars, and were allowed a brief time for discussion with the other judges to confirm what they saw that athlete do.
This year, the judging format has changed. Two cameramen with telescopic lenses will film each athlete’s run. At the end of each day, the runs will be posted online. A panel of judges around the world, in addition to two on-site judges (a skier and a snowboarder), will review the footage and determine the winner for that day, as well as an Overall winner— awarded to the best all-around skier or snowboarder.
Last year’s winner, Aspen, Colorado-local Ted Davenport, expressed some concerns about the new format. “There are a lot of things that a camera doesn’t pick up. The judges’ decisions could be based more on the quality of the footage, and depending on the camera angle on the air and landing, the judges might think it’s a cool move based on the shot.”
New Zealand local and last year's second-place skier, Sam Smoothy, feels differently. “I think it’s a really interesting concept, and a good event to test out such a format. Judging freeride events
is an extremely difficult thing to do, and as an athlete, you have to be able to accept their judgment whether you agree with it or not. So if the judges are able to become more accurate by removing the live aspect and the rush of determining scores between each run, then I think its a good thing. But as always, we will have to see how it works in reality.”
The judges will have more time then ever to judge each run. According to Tania Pilkinton, the medid contact for the World Heli Challenge, both fly days will happen this week, thanks to recent snowfall and favorable weather. The winners are announced August 11th, meaning the judges will have a few extra days to review the footage. The remote judges are also allowed to contact the on-site judges with any questions about an athlete’s run.
As the footage is posted online, fans can follow the event and view each athletes run online. In addition to the Overall winner, the Freestyle winner, and the Extreme winner, viewers can select the “People’s Choice” winner.
To watch the athletes' runs and keep up with the event, stay tuned to the World Heli Challeng website.