New ski coach aims high

Gearing up: At a recent QAST meet-the-coaches night are, from left, skier Livvy Thomson, 15, head coach and programme director Mario Hanausek, skier Hugo Harris, 8, and chairman Damien O'Connell

Queenstown Alpine Ski Team’s new head coach wants the ski club to become no less than the best in the southern hemisphere.

Austrian Mario Hanausek rates the skills of QAST’s younger alpine skiers and says some of the older ones are still competitive with their European counterparts.

However he’s keen to raise the level of others whom he says are “really far off”.

“If they just ski southern hemisphere when they’re 14, 15, there is probably something missing.”

For the past three years, ex-racer Hanausek, 33, has been head coach of Australia’s Falls Creek Race Club, while coaching Austrian FIS athletes during their winter.

One reason he’s taken the QAST role is that Queenstown’s similar to his Austrian home, he says.

“Another reason is to get more experience around the world.”

QAST committee member, ex-ski racer Erika Harris, who’s in charge of sponsorship, stresses fees are affordable.

She’s keen, in particular, to encourage more young athletes – kids are eligible from the year they turn eight.

“At that age, they spend a minimum amount of time in the training gates and a lot of time skiing all over the mountain developing their technical ability, especially.”

Currently QAST has 59 skiers, plus nine international athletes.

Skiers train on Queenstown’s NZSki-operated Coronet Peak and The Remarkables.

Harris says QAST enjoys a good relationship with local schools, including Wakatipu High with its ski academy.

The volunteer-run club has two mission statements: ‘better athletes are better people’ and ‘all it takes is all you’ve got’.

Harris adds QAST is indebted to local sponsors NZSki, AJ Hackett Bungy and NZ Sotheby’s International ealty, who’ve funded the racers’ flash new uniforms, along with vehicle sponsor Wellington Airport and newcomer Fergburger, which supplied the head coach’s car.