Heli challenge opened up to juniors

The 2013 World Heli Challenge begins in the backcountry surrounding Wanaka tomorrow with the event's first junior competition, open to competitors aged between 12 and 16.

Event director Tony Harrington said that the ski and snowboard competition had always had a ''young gun'' component and had launched the careers of Jossi Wells and junior heli challenge ambassador Mitch Reeves.

''With so much interest and young talent out there, we decided it was time to take it a step further and create an event dedicated for the younger athletes.''

The elite level ski and snowboard heli event - open to competitors aged 16 and over - will take place from August 4 to 22, featuring a strong local line up including 2012 winner Will Jackways and Wanaka men Sam Smoothy and Fraser McDougall.

International competitors include snowboarder Antti Autti, of Finland, and 2012 women's champion Jacqui Edgerly, of the United States. The competitors will be flown to the backcountry on two competition days - a freestyle day and extreme day. They will be judged on their overall performance across both days, their abilities to display their freeriding skills in steep and challenging terrain, and to deliver a smooth, strong and consistent line.

The event closes with an awards night in the Lake Wanaka Centre where prizes will be presented to the winning competitors, and the winners of the Canon Shootout film and photographic competition.

Outside the two competition days, competitors can explore the surrounding area and get a taste of New Zealand through opportunities to shear sheep, plant native flax with residents, ski at Treble Cone and Cardrona, and take part in other adventure activities.