Skia Ora Team!
First of all, I apologise for being a little lazy with the updates this winter. Actually, I apologise for being very lazy with the updates this winter! I have seen many of you in person either on the slopes or sporting the blue uniform in Browns Ski Shop in the past few months. It was an exciting winter yet again, including wild weather, deep powder, some awesome events and my best ever result!
As most of you will know, the snow didn’t arrive on schedule this year anywhere in New Zealand. Then it didn’t arrive a week late. Nor 2 weeks. It was slightly over 3 weeks late, and mid-way through the Queenstown Winter Festival before the snow finally showed itself, and it was out of the cannons to start with. Nevertheless when the snow finally came it was in 3 monumental snow storms, all of which dumped heavy snow right down to Queenstown, one of them possibly the heaviest snowfall on record. Kingston was blanketed with 70+cm of snow, Frankton with around 40, and 30 in other parts of the district. Needless to say there has been some seriously dry snow here this year – I skied knee deep champagne powder from the top of Coronet to the valley floor twice this year – once in a lifetime!
Would you believe this was on Malaghans Road? And it was only halfway through the storm!?
Well, since I am a ski racer I should probably talk about ski racing, I guess?
The season started a little late because of the snow, but I welcomed the break. I returned from overseas fairly late this winter, having competed well into April in the USA. The extra time allowed me to rest my back for about 6 weeks, rehab, and get seriously back into physical training. I am happy to say the back has been perfect all winter. Thank you pilates-style core, lots of strength training and an insane amount of stretching!
In order to make the finances work this season 6 national team members; Ben Griffin, Taylor Rapley, Jamie and Nick Prebble, Andrew Wylie and myself joined the Queenstown Alpine Ski Team (QAST). QAST in turn employed Nils Coberger as a coach for us, and helped with some financial support. It was fantastic of them to do that for us. It was also really rewarding for me to come back to my roots, and meet and ski with lots of the younger kids in the team! They have so much enthusiasm and passion…more on this later. In order to make it work for me personally, I worked full time in Browns, and consequently skied mostly 3-4 days a week in the training periods. Again, less time on snow was not necessarily a bad thing; I am a much more experienced athlete these days, so less volume and more focus was a viable way to make a training model work.
The race season was short and sharp this winter – everything was condensed into a month. The competition was fierce, particularly in the Winter Games. We saw record breaking fields, with incredibly talented athletes, and a depth of talent which is only seen in Europa Cup races…the step just below World Cup. The Winter Games was a seriously awesome event – downtown prizegivings with bands, proper public bib-draws and awesome TV snippets each evening. This was topped by blue skies and perfect snow. I finished 5th in the Winter Games Super-G in Mount Hutt, behind 3 Swedes and a Jap. The result was not my best FIS points performance ever but it was in the top 5, and I was happy with my skiing. The result also helped my season; the Winter Games were ANC races, and one of my goals this winter was to win the ANC Super-G title. Following this, we had the Nationals Super-G at Hutt, where Ben pipped me by a few hundredths of a second to take the title, and the GS and SL at Coronet. The GS was less than spectacular for me, and once again Ben took the title. He repeated his trend and pushed me back to 2nd in the Slalom, giving himself a clean sweep of national titles…impressive! I am happy to be 2nd behind him in 2 disciplines though, he is a truly talented athlete.
The ANC finals at Hutt were a successful time for me. The first Super-G was not quite as fast as I had hoped, but I finished in the top-15 to gain some points towards the ANC title. In the final Super-G I managed to find my form. I finished 2nd, just .04 behind the winner Johan Oehagen of Sweden. It was a personal best (by a long way!) 20 point FIS result. My best prior to this was a 26. The result will pull my world ranking down about 25%. I was seriously pumped. It also meant that I won the ANC Super-G title, which gives me a guaranteed World Cup Spot this coming winter and a 31st start position at NorAm and Europa Cup.
Screaming onto Johnny Doles at Mount Hutt. Yes I have been rocking the facial hair all winter.
Despite the success of the winter for me I am changing my approach for the future. I will retire altogether from GS and Slalom competition. I can safely say that I have given these disciplines my best shot and that my results indicate that I have reached my potential. I will continue to compete in Super-G, but I am going to do so in a more low-key manner. I am in the process of trying to organise a summer camp with K-level (11-14 year old) kids from QAST this summer in either Lake Tahoe or Spain with me as the coach. I have been joining the kids at all the races since I finished at Mount Hutt a few weeks ago, and joining them occasionally for training at Coronet Peak. I thoroughly enjoy working with them and can see a bright future for many. I hope to stay on for an extra 2 weeks and race in a NorAm series in Aspen, Colorado to utilise the 31 start-position I have and get a few races in while I am overseas. There are no World Championships or Olympics this coming season. Next winter in New Zealand I will race in the Super-G races at Mount Hutt. The rules have changed slightly, so the races from June 2012 onwards will count for qualification for Sochi 2014!
In order to work towards becoming a better coach and a career in the ski industry I completed my NZSIA Level 2 Ski Instructors last week. The NZSIA have been amazing in facilitating this for 5 of us who are all still on the national ski team, making it free of charge and adjusting certain parts of the course for us. Thanks guys!
For now, the next few months are a bit uncertain. I am looking for any landscaping/gardening work anybody has for now, or any temporary work between now and mid to late December as this is likely when the winter would start for me. Also, if anyone wants a storage tune and wax put on their skis give me a buzz…I will have them all tuned up for $25 and scrape them for free prior to next winter.
So, until next time, I guess! Thank you to everyone who has supported this winter and throughout my entire career. It has been amazing, and I am so lucky to have lived this incredible life.