Two Olympic gold medalists are among a number of high calibre athletes set to tackle the Cardrona halfpipe and slopestyle course at Audi quattro Winter Games 2015.
Veteran Kelly Clark will represent the United States in the women’s halfpipe, a FIS Snowboard World Cup event. Clark won Olympic gold in 2002 as well as bronze medals in 2010 and 2014. She has a total of five Winter X Games wins and claimed her fifth World Snowboarding Tour title earlier this year. Clark will be returning to New Zealand to defend her crown.
Other big names signed up for next month’s Audi quattro Winter Games NZ in the women’s halfpipe are Hikaru Oe of Japan, French star Mirabelle Thovex and Australia’s Holly Crawford.
Swiss snowboarder Iouri Podladtchikov, also known as “iPod”, was the 2014 gold medallist in the Sochi Winter Olympics and now has his sights set on gold in Winter Games 2015 men’s halfpipe.
Taku Hiraoka of Japan and Christian Haller of Switzerland who took silver and bronze respectively will be in the hunt in the men’s field again this year, along with Slovenian Tim-Kevin Ravnjak who placed third at the 2015 FIS Snowboard World Championships in Austria.
The snowboard slopestyle event has also attracted some big names from all over the world.
Austria’s Anna Gasser who is currently second on the World Snowboard Tour and Enni Rukajarvi of Finland who won silver at the Sochi Olympics and is ranked third on the Tour. New Zealand Sochi Olympic representative Christy Prior will be a key competitor in slopestyle after recording impressive 2015 results with a first place at the Burton European Open and third place at X Games.
Top ranked men include slopestyle specialist and number two on the World Snowboard Tour, Yuki Kadono of Japan, Canada’s Michael Ciccarelli winner of his home FIS World Cup Slopestyle at Stoneham last February and Lucien Koch of Switzerland who won the FIS World Cup Slopestyle in the Czech Republic in March.
Freestyle skiing and snowboarding is a major drawcard for visitors to Cardona. Twenty-one of the freestyle athletes who trained at Cardrona went on to win Winter Olympic medals at Sochi in 2013, and New Zealand’s only Para-Olympic Silver Medallist, Corey Peters also trains at Cardrona.
Cardona Valley, between Queenstown and Wanaka, has two ski areas - Cardrona Alpine Resort and Snow Farm - where on-snow winter activities extend to snow and ice driving on a dedicated race track, backcountry overnight snow mobile tours, dog sled rides, snow bikes and snow shoe adventures. Cardrona Alpine Resort is only a 20 minute drive from Wanaka and 45 minutes from Queenstown making it easily accessible
Cardrona Alpine Resort caters for everyone, from first-timers and families, to experienced skiers with abundant wide open trails that meander across three bowls as well as a world class terrain park, and comprehensive children’s facilities including four centres and slopes dedicated to under-fives.
All events at the Audi Quattro Winter Games are free to watch and ski-areas are open to the public throughout the games.