Novice Queenstown snow racers tackle GS

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Budding young skiers and snowboarders from the Wakatipu have had a taste of competitive racing via an upgraded local event.

More than 120 primary-aged local kids took to a Giant Slalom course up Coronet Peak last Wednesday for the Wakatipu Schools Snow Sports Battle of the Basin.

Year four to year eight kids from Queenstown Primary, Arrowtown School, Remarkables Primary, St Joseph’s and two kids from Glenorchy all faced off.

The event was held under official race rules – but aimed at demystifying competitive racing for youngsters who haven’t given it a crack before.

Co-organiser and former New Zealand ski racer Fiona Boyer says often kids don’t get involved because their parents haven’t heard about racing events or can be nervous about it.

“It was about showing kids it’s really touchable – and a huge amount of fun as a winter sport.

“These are all good, down-to-earth kids who play rugby, netball, row, whatever. So it’s quite accessible for anyone to do from that point of view.”

Boyer, on national umbrella body Snow Sports New Zealand’s alpine sports committee, pushed for the Battle of the Basin as part of her responsibility for growing grass-roots ski racing.

Boyer is joined on the committee by Snow Sports’ alpine director Ian McLean, Coronet Peak performance centre boss Toby Arnott and Arrowtown school deputy Tim Young – and adds they got plenty of support from veteran ski coach Nils Coberger.

Entrants could go for either competitive or recreational categories – and the first three in each won medals.

Traditionally, the local schools organise an inter-school ski racing event but it’s more of a carnival – and Boyer wanted to retain that but turn it into something more significant.

“This is the first time it’s been a bit more formal,” Boyer says.

“There were kids who went away who have never won a medal in ski racing who had smiles from here to the end of the basin.”

Arrowtown School won overall after points were accumulated – and Boyer says in future they may look at widening the ‘Battle of the Basin’ idea to tackle other schools in the South Island, nationally and potentially even a trans-Tasman battle.

Meanwhile, Queenstown-based alpine ski coach Nils Coberger is in the running for Snow Sports NZ coach of the year, facing fellow finalists Bruce Wells, a Wanaka coach of his star freeskiing sons, cross country coach Alexei Sotskov, snowboard coach Colin Bartlett and adaptive coaches Ben Adams and Jane Stevens.

Coberger’s charge Adam Barwood is one of three finalists for alpine ski racer of the year.

The winners will be announced tomorrow (Friday) night.

More photos of the youngsters in today’s Mountain Scene print edition.