By GUY WILLIAMS
Queenstown’s The Remarkables will become the home of New Zealand’s first Freeride World Tour Academy this winter.
By affiliating with the academy, the ski area’s bringing its competitive freestyle and freeride programme under the umbrella of the same organisation that runs the world’s elite freeride snowboarding and skiing circuit.
Its freeride coach will be resort-based skier Blake Marshall, who over the past two years has established himself as one of the top guns on the World Freeride Tour, while freestyle coach Hannah Wilson will also be programme director.
The academy’s open to strong local skiers and riders aged seven to 17, while athletes from outside the Southern Lakes, and from overseas, will be able to attend scheduled camps or drop in to train before competitions.
Marshall, who’s just headed overseas for his third Tour campaign, says to be working with the biggest name in freeriding is ‘‘amazing’’.
‘‘Freeride World Tour Academy bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the table, and to be able to help junior athletes in the freestyle and freeski space feels like an incredible way to give back to the sport.’’
For the first time, up-and-coming local athletes will be placed on a structured pathway to the pinnacle events, such as national slopestyle and park events, the Junior Freeride World Tour and the global Freeride World Tour.
NZ is only the seventh country to be approved to operate the academy, which is headquartered in Verbier, Switzerland.
Ski area boss Ross Lawrence says it’s an ‘‘incredible opportunity’’ for promising young skiers and riders to have access to a high-level programme in their backyard.
There were 70 kids in its freeride and freestyle programme last year.
The Remarkables Snow Sports Academy, founded in 2017, will continue to
operate as a community-based club.