New Zealand ski star: Adam Hall

New Zealand alpine ski racer Adam Hall thrives on a constant diet of winter – his recipe for turning adversity into triumph.

A member of the New Zealand Disabled Ski Team since 2005, Hall has twice represented his country at the Paralympics in Italy and Canada.

The young Kiwi athlete’s greatest sporting achievement, thus far, has been winning the gold medal in standing slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Snow sports

Adam Hall was born in Dunedin - in New Zealand's South Island - in October 1987.

Diagnosed at birth with spina bifida - a disability that typically leaves sufferers in a wheelchair - Hall says he's "lucky" because he is mobile and able to walk.

Hall discovered snow sports as a six-year-old when, at the suggestion of a friend’s mum, he first tried on a set of skis.

"I really loved sport and participated in many sports at school ... so I was keen to give skiing a go. I loved it straight away, but I didn’t have the independence or skill to be very good at that age," he said.

Three years later, another friend introduced him to snowboarding - and he was hooked.

"At the grand old age of nine I found the freedom and independence I had been looking for - most of all the speed!"

Wanaka alpine slopes

From the age of nine on, Hall’s winters were spent commuting between the alpine slopes above Lake Wanaka - a major winter sports destination in New Zealand’s Southern Alps - and his family home on a dairy farm near Dunedin.

But, while snowboarding remains his first love, Hall eventually made the "tough decision" to change back to skiing because it offered him the best competition opportunities.

"Disabled Snowboarding is a new sport currently not in the Paralympics programme so I stick with skiing in order to compete," he said.

"However I am a snowboarder at heart and, along with my dreams and goals of being Paralympian, another big dream and goal for me is to see snowboarding become a Paralympic sport."

Paralympic dream

Adam Hall joined the New Zealand Disabled Ski Team as a 17-year-old in 2005, and was named later that year in the New Zealand Paralympic Ski Team to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics at Torino, Italy.

"It was just an amazing thrill for a 10-year dream come true and to see all the hard work pay off," said Hall.

At Torino, Hall placed 41st in the men's downhill event, 43rd in the men's giant slalom and 50th in the men's Super-G, standing.

During the 2007/2008 season, he made four World cup podiums.

Adam Hall has twice been named NZ Snowsports Adaptive Skier of the Year, and received the ultimate accolade of NZ Snowsports Athlete of the Year in 2008 and 2009.

At the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games, Hall won the men's slalom event, standing. He placed 8th in the men's super combined, and 7th in the men's Super-G, standing.

In 2011, Hall was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZOM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours, for services to sport.

Back-to-back winters

The Dunedin-born ski champion now lives back-to-back winters, racing on the World Cup circuit alongside the very best athletes and coaches in the world.

When he’s home in New Zealand for the southern hemisphere winter, Hall continues to train on Wanaka’s ski slopes at Cardrona Ski Resort which, he says, "provided the best adaptive programme in the country when I was growing up and still does".

Hall rates Cardrona highly for the variety of terrain - from steep to flat to rolling - which is "everything I need to maintain world class training".

Background: Wanaka

An hour drive from Queenstown, the little town of Wanaka sits on the shores of Lake Wanaka. Sometimes described as ‘the New Zealander's Queenstown’ Wanaka is less commercial, smaller and quieter though there are still plenty of activities, restaurants and bars to explore.

Wanaka's nearby ski fields are:

  • Cardrona has a family environment with a giant toy clock tower, several restaurants and special facilities for children. The hills have wide open slopes for learners or intermediate skiers, and facilities include 'magic carpet' moving walkways that are easier than T-bars for beginners.
  • Treble Cone's skifields overhang the aquamarine lake with its tiny snow-covered islands and mountain backdrop. The Treble Cone terrain is more difficult than Cardrona, but it's usually less crowded because of this.
  • Snow Park, in the Pisa Range - between Wanaka and Queenstown - is renowned internationally for the challenging terrain that makes it popular with young free-riders. The resort has 55km of ski trails and 310ha of back country skiing terrain.