Top visiting athletes warm to local ski fields

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The world’s best winter athletes are descending on the Wakatipu to compete and train. 

Olympic medallists, World Cup champions and X Games stars are lining up for local events. 

They include the FIS-accredited Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Cups at Cardrona’s Olympic superpipe next week and the invitational Burton High Fives snowboard comp – formerly NZ Open – this week at SnowPark NZ. 

NZ’s Freeski Open is from August 28 to September 8, with the Big Mountain section contested on The Remarkables.
The hugely-popular Parklife Invitational rail jam is at Queenstown’s Recreation Ground next Saturday, where the best 
Kiwi skiers and riders face off against international visitors. 

Winter Games NZ boss Arthur Klap runs the $114,000 prize pool FIS World Cup events which will be part of the biennial Winter Games in 2013. 

“It’s as good as you can get. 

“Traditionally New Zealanders aren’t big watchers of snow sports events. We want to build a spectator base and encourage more people to have a look – the [Cardrona events] are free and you don’t need a ski pass.” 

Expected top riders include Australia’s Winter Olympics gold medallist Torah Bright and Nathan Johnstone, reigning Olympic halfpipe bronze medallist and highest ranked rider on the World Cup circuit. 

Up to 24 nations will compete. 

“A lot of teams train here and we work closely with Burton and the NZ Open so the skiers and snowboarders have two major competitions each,” Klap says. 

“We’d expect most of the finalists at the next Winter Olympics will be competing.” 

Meanwhile, the US men’s alpine ski team is in Queenstown for a four-week summer training camp. Russian, Norwegian, German, Swiss, Canadian, Austrian, Swedish, and Japanese teams are also at Coronet Peak.