(Lake Wanaka, New Zealand – August 4, 2009) – The Freeski Association of New Zealand in conjunction with Snow Sports News Zealand is proud to once again stage the Volkl NZ Freeski Open taking place from August 11 to 20, 2009.

The Fifth annual Volkl NZ Freeski Open, which covers three major freeski disciplines: Slopestyle, Halfpipe and Big Mountain, welcomes a brand new presenting partner The North Face, to the Big Mountain competition.

Establishing itself as the biggest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere and attracting athletes from across the globe, the Volkl NZ Freeski Open has now been officially recognised on the international freeski World Tour alongside the world’s biggest freeski events.

The North Face Big Mountain is the first-ever Southern Hemisphere Freeride World Qualifier Event, while the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) is including the Slopestyle and Halfpipe as an AFP points event.

“Last year’s event was a big step forward in demonstrating that New Zealand is a world class player in the freeski industry,” said Nick Draxl, President of the Freeski Association of New Zealand (FSANZ).

“A FSANZ goal has always been to provide a proving ground for our athletes against the best in world in our own backyard,” continued Draxl. “We’ve also recognised that in providing an event such as the Volkl NZ Freeski Open, we have the ability to promote New Zealand to the world as a premier training and competition destination. This year we have the addition of the Winter Games, an additional world class freeski event beginning just after the Volkl Freeski Open that is sure to boost New Zealand’s stature even further.”

Janina Kuzma. photo: Camilla Stoddart

The Slopestyle and Halfpipe events will be held at Cardrona Alpine resort this year for the first time, while The North Face Big Mountain sends skiers off against some of the steepest and most challenging terrain in the country at The Remarkables and Treble Cone ski areas. A new addition to this year’s format is ‘The North Face Sessions’ - a back country expression session hosted by Southern Lakes Heli for winners of The North Face Big Mountain competition.

The action will be filmed and featured during a public screening of the Volkl NZ Freeski Open in Wanaka following the event.

The slopestyle course is being designed to ensure the best possible features for throwing down big! A handful of International pre-qualified riders will set the benchmark giving the 140 amateur and professional athletes the chance to prove their worth on the world stage. Entrants will battle through qualifiers for a spot in the finals and a share of the prize pool.

Top New Zealand athletes confirmed to compete include Jossi and Byron Wells, Janina Kuzma, Sam Smoothy and Geoff Small.

Byron Wells. photo: Camilla Stoddart

The Volkl NZ Freeski Open is a collaborative effort between Snowsports New Zealand (SSNZ) and the Freeski Association New Zealand (FSANZ), organisations that share the objective of promoting awareness and participation of snow sports and freeskiing in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere.

Volkl NZ Freeski Open Schedule

Wednesday 12th August - The North Face Big Mountain Qualifiers – The Remarkables

Friday 14th August - The North Face Big Mountain Finals – Treble Cone

Tuesday 18th August – Halfpipe - Cardrona

Wednesday 19th August – Slopestyle - Cardrona

Sat 15th – 18th August (weather bracket) - The North Face Sessions – Southern Lakes

Thursday 20th August - Public Screening of Volkl NZ Freeski Open featuring highlights of The North Face Sessions & TGR/The North Face Film – $15 entry Cinema Paradiso

About the Freeride World Tour Qualifier (Big Mountain)

Since 2008, the Freeride World Tour has made sports history bringing together top international freeride skiers and snowboarders, men and women, competing at prestigious resorts around the world, battling for the World Champion title. The Freeride World Tour (FWT) is welcoming The New Zealand Freeride Series 2009 as a Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) event for the 2009-2010 season. The New Zealand Freeride Series is comprised of three events, The North Face Big Mountain at the Volkl New Zealand Freeski Open at The Remarkables and Treble Cone (11-16 August), the K2 Big Mountain Chill Series at Craigieburn and Mt Olympus (26-30 August), and the Export Gold Xtreme at Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu  (8-13 September). As a premier event, the Volkl New Zealand Freeski Open offers double the points in the overall Series result. http://www.freerideworldtour.com

About the Association of Freeski Professionals World Tour (Slopestyle and Halfpipe)

Event rankings are based upon course construction, prize money, media exposure and quality of competitor field and determined by the Executive Committee of the AFP.  Final points for each event are determined after the start list is confirmed and the strength field based on AFP standings is weighted into consideration.  The Best four results are used for halfpipe and the best three results for Slopestyle and Big Air to determine the World Champions. http://www.afpworldtour.com

About Volkl

Principal Sponsor & Official Ski Higher, faster, further – that motto may work for the Olympics, but not for Völkl. There’s more to it than that when it comes to developing new ski models: more precise, agile, dynamic, powerful, cushioning, individual, comfortable, intense, flexible, variable, safe, carving. In other words: our goal is to make skiing a little bit better each year. We use technical innovation to drive forward the development of skiing. Why are we doing this? It’s quite simple: We don’t view the limits of physics as the summit, but rather as just another step on our path. We use know-how, enthusiasm and German engineering to work constantly on improvements. Even if they appear quite miniscule at first – over 85 years of experience have taught us that big successes often depend on the small details. http://www.voelkl.com

About The North Face

Big Mountain Presenting Sponsor & Official Outerwear The North Face offers the most technically innovative products in the market to accomplished snowsport athletes, climbers, mountaineers, endurance athletes, and explorers. The company's products are sold in specialty snowsport, backpacking, running, and mountaineering retailers, premium-sporting goods retailers and major outdoor specialty retail chains. http://www.thenorthface.com