Team ranks full

Amongst a full contingent: QAST athletes, from left, Violet Smillie, April Bentley and Sasha Key

Due to a huge uptake from local skiers at all levels, Queenstown’s ski racing programme’s capping numbers for the first time in a decade.

Queenstown Alpine Ski Team (QAST) has filled its 90 slots this winter.

‘‘It is fantastic to see local families embracing the QAST programme as we work to deliver an accessible approach to alpine skiing and provide athletes with the support and skills to go as far as they choose in the sport,’’ programme director Celine Arnold says.

She attributes the high level of interest in part to the performance of Kiwi snow sports athletes at the recent Beijing Winter Olympics.

‘‘While this is undoubtedly a factor, on a local level we are also seen as providing an all-encompassing ski programme for kids as young as six, who just want to improve their skiing, through to 20-year-old athletes in the high-performance end of our programme.

‘‘We have built up an excellent reputation, and the introduction last year of our end-of-season spring camp at The Remarkables has helped raise the awareness of what the sport can offer.’’

Arnold’s also delighted, now Covid border restrictions have eased, QAST can again employ international coaches to work alongside its Kiwi coaches.

Newcomers include Max Vaughton, who competes on the ski cross world cup circuit, and former freeride world tour athlete and current Swiss ski examiner, Richard Amacker.

Meanwhile, QAST chair Erika Harris says the programme — run in close conjunction with skifield operator NZSki — has produced many top athletes, including Alice Robinson, 21, who’s taken the international skiing world by storm with five World Cup podiums, including three wins.

‘‘Alice joined QAST as a young athlete and has developed through the ranks to carve out an impressive ski racing career, which reinforces the strength of our grassroots programme.’’

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