The World Heli Challenge is a helicopter-accessed competition that seeks to find the best all-around rider within an eight-day window of competition. This year, despite avalanches and poor weather, 29-year-old Ted Davenport took first place.
The first day of the World Heli Challenge was slated to be the “Freeride Day,” but tough conditions led the riders to abandon the judging system, and instead set up a freestyle jam session. During the Freeride Day , competitors are heli-ed in to the backcountry, where the hand-selected riders’ showcase their freeski skills, usually with tricks commonly seen at the X Games.
Wednesday, the weather was subdued enough to hit the backcountry for the Extreme Day, where skiers and snowboarders rode steep backcountry terrain, using the natural mountain features as their stage to show the judges what they’ve got. Judges skied down the mountain first to assess the conditions, and were lucky enough to ski the best runs of the day— thingsonly worsened as the day progressed. “Conditions in the history of this event have never been so difficult or extreme,” said Tony Harrington, founder of the contest.
Historically, the scores from both of the events are added together, and the highest scoring man and woman from both skiing and snowboarding will be crowned World Heli Challenge Champions. This year, only the extreme day was used, and Ted Davenport—reigning champion—won again, with New Zealand local Sam Smoothy taking second.
During Davenport’s run, he set off a class II avalanche, but managed to ski out of it. “The best part of this years competition competition was when I was positive I wouldn’t be swept down in the avalanche I triggered halfway through my run,” Davenport said.
Another element of the competition is the Fktor award, which goes to the skier that best embraces the spirit of camaraderie and overall sportsmanship while also stomping a great run. This year it went to Charlie Timmins from Australia, who went huge during the un-judged Freeride Day. He was a role model and mentor to the “grommie”—an up-and-coming kid that is chosen to participate in the event— this year, it was 11-year-old Mitch Reeve. Past grommies include big names like Jossi Wells.
On the womens’ side, Ane Enderud was crowned champion. Enderud, Davenport, and the top male and female snowboarders, Travis Rice and Aline Bock, will gain entry into both the King of the Hill and World Extreme Skiing Championships this coming spring in Valdez, Alaska.
On August 7, there will also be a big air “street style” snow show at the Hawea Hotel, to close the competition with a bang. Snow will be brought in by truckloads to build the jumps.
Davenport and Smoothy are both scheduled for a Warren Miller shoot in New Zealand next week, where they’ll shear wool and ski more New Zealand terrain. “I’m so stoked on the Warren Miller shoot. In New Zealand, there’s something fun and cool to do no matter what the snow’s like,” Davenport said.
For more information on the World Heli Challenge’s final results click here.