Queenstown-based Hawaiian Lyon Farrell is still pinching himself after being picked for the mammoth World Heli Challenge event.
The 12-year-old spends only six weeks a year snowboarding, at Cardrona Alpine Resort, while on summer holidays from his home in Maui – yet he’s already got the talent to launch himself off remote mountain bluffs.
Lyon is the wildcard entry to the heli skiing and boarding challenge after winning a competition on Facebook.
He’s also the youngest competitor in a lineup of 60 national and international athletes, aged up to 40.
“When I got the call-up I was like, ‘Oh my God’. I was super surprised,” Lyon says.
“This is my first time heliboarding. I’ve never been in a chopper up the mountain before so I’m pretty psyched.”
Meanwhile, Aussie freeskier Tori Beattie returns to big mountain competition after major knee and back injuries.
The 29-year-old got a taste for the World Heli Challenge when she judged it last year.
“I’m not coming into this event looking for a result, I just want to be happy with how I’m skiing,” she says.
The World Heli Challenge, which was launched in Wanaka last Sunday, is held over two weeks – allowing for the best weather and snow conditions on two fly-days.
Athletes get choppered in to more than 5000sq km of back country peaks at Minaret Station, near Mt Aspiring National Park, and are judged on big mountain and natural terrain free-riding.
The remaining 12 days are action-packed with adventure and lifestyle activities in the Southern Lakes region, culminating in a glitzy awards night in Wanaka on August 11.