Lake Wanaka, NZ (19 July 2011) - Sixty of the world’s top skiers and snowboarders, including a mixture of World Champions, Olympians, legends and a smattering of “under dogs”, will converge on Wanaka, New Zealand this week to participate in one of the most prestigious freeride events on the planet, the World Heli Challenge.

This year the event has risen to a new level adding a media ‘Shootout’, a new judging system, a fundraiser for SOS at Snow Park, and a red carpet ‘Gala Awards’ night.

“One of the most exciting elements of staging this event is the ability to create the many innovative events and media projects around it,” said event founder Tony Harrington.

The ‘Shootout’ brings 15 of the world’s leading photographers and cinematographers to Wanaka to shoot for a variety of award categories, incorporating action, drama, lifestyle, landscape and story telling.

“The World Heli Challenge has always been about developing cutting edge concepts and setting benchmarks within the snowsports industry,” said Harrington. “This will be even more relevant with the new judging system.”

Two long lens cameras will film every athlete’s run. The runs will then be posted on the website. An esteemed international panel will judge each athlete’s run. Athlete’s and their friends, fans, families and supporters can also vote for their preferred winners and see all the action in detail.

“Up until now, judges have been required to make what can sometimes be hasty and inconsistent scoring decisions whilst on the mountain during the staging of the event,” said Harrington. “We believe the online judging format is the best and fairest way to award athletes their points and embraces the technologies available to make our sport better.”

The event will culminate on Thursday, 11 August at a red carpet ‘Gala Awards’ at the Lake Wanaka Centre, where the winners will be announced.

“The Gala Awards night promises to be an exciting evening for the athletes, photographers, cinematographers, VIP’s, media, and general public,” said Harrington. “In addition to announcement of the World Heli Challenge champions, winners of the photography and filming “Shootout” awards will also be announced. “

The audio-visual show is set to be jaw- dropping as the photographers present their award category images, followed by a five-minute mini documentary by each of the seven cinematographers, capturing the two weeks through their own creative minds.

The Gala Awards evening is open to the public with a limited number of tickets at $35, which includes a cocktail and nibbles.

This year event organizers are bringing some of the excitement to the people of Wanaka and visitors to the area. A media launch will be held on Sunday, 24 July at 3pm on the lakefront across from Pembroke Park. Aspiring Helicopters will fly two helicopters in over the lake and several of the competitors will be on hand to sign autographs and for interviews. And, on each of the two competition days, top athletes will launch from the lakefront at the same location.

“We always like to give back in any way we can,” said Harrington. “This year the World Heli Challenge has chosen to help support SOS Outreach, a non-profit organisation that offers a value-based leadership curriculum that enhances the experiences for youth by promoting self-respect, positive relationships, social skills, and positive values all while participating in an outdoor sport.”

The World Heli Challenge, SOS and Snow Park have joined forces to host the SOS Launch Party on Monday, 25 July at Snow Park. The evening will include night riding, film footage taken in New Zealand for Warren Miller’s Intervention, and highlight footage from previous World Heli Challenge events as well as live music and a silent auction. Several of the World Heli Challenge athletes will be in attendance. Tickets are $39 Adult/$34 Student/$17 Child and include night riding as well as entrance to the party at the Woolshed. Every adult and student ticket purchaser will be entered into a draw for a day of heli-skiing with Southern Lakes Heliski. $10 from every ticket purchased will be donated to SOS Outreach.

Athletes from eight countries will be represented including, returning 2x WHC champion Ted Davenport, U.S., current Freeride World Tour champion Anne-Flore Marxer from Switzerland who was the second most Googled Swiss sports person next to Roger Federer in April last year, Markus Eder who was second in this years “Red Bull Line Catcher” staged in France and Australian skier Chris Booth, one of the hottest international free skiers in the world today.

The New Zealand athletes including boarders Will Jackway’s, Jake Koia, Abby Lockhart, Maria and Janina Kuzma and Sam Smoothy are all forces to be reckoned with and have huge respect from the international snow sports community in the big mountain and back country snow environment.

The full line up of athletes can be found at

About the World Heli Challenge

The World Heli Challenge is a cross breed of intense world-class competition coupled with the adventure lifestyle that New Zealand is so famous for.

The event is held over a two-week period allowing for the best weather and snow conditions on the two fly days. The two competition days include a Big Mountain competition which tests the skills of athletes riding down steep, gnarly runs of the highest mountain peaks in over 5,000 square kilometres of the Southern Lakes Heli skiing terrain and a Freestyle Day, held in Mother Nature’s own terrain park. Points from the two competition days are added together to find out just who is the best all-round skier and snowboarder..

The remaining 12 days of the event days are equally as action packed with adventure and lifestyle activities. Athletes can be found skydiving, white water rafting, surfing the West Coast (this year with former ASP World Championship Tour Surfing Champion, Mark “Occy” Occhilupo, who will be joining the event as a TV host). They will also be treated to some down home kiwi fun mustering on the Glen Dene station, fishing, and spending a night at the Dingleburn station.

When the crew decide to ease off on the adrenaline, you’ll find them sitting back at one of the myriad of cafes around Lake Wanaka sipping on lattes, soaking in the views and reflecting on the array of lifestyle activities that they’ve been enjoying. The athletes will also learn about conservation with Lake Wanaka Eco Adventures and head out to sample some of the fine local vintage at the Rippon Vineyard.

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