Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mother Nature's gambling den - follow up

A bit of follow up from the last post regarding the Fine Line screening in Queenstown. I'll let Sophie from AdventureSkope do the talking:

"I'm delighted to let you know that last night's screening of the award-winning avalanche film "The Fine Line" at Queenstown's World Bar was a huge success!

The AdventureSkope Productions crew were hoping that about 100 people might attend, so they were overjoyed that almost 200 people braved the rain to be a part of this fantastic night.

Even more people wanted to see the movie - the AdventureSkope crew had to apologetically turn people away due to the World Bar having reached maximum capacity.

Proceeds from the film night, which are going to New Zealand Land Search and Rescue, have already exceeded $1,600 and further donations are still pouring in. Search & Rescue's Ed Halson is delighted with the result and has said that the money will be used to fund new "lost person rescue kits" a crucial ingredient in a successful backcountry rescue.

The event was very well supported by local businesses with over $2,000 worth of products being given away to thirty lucky people. Sponsors included Body Sanctum, Harris Mountain Heli-Ski, IO NZ, Joe's Garage, Onsen Hot Pools, Outside Sports, Petzl, Quest, The Studio Pilates & Physiotherapy and The World Bar; along with 3 Fold Print and Impact Print.

Thanks to everyone that supported and attended this event - without your help it wouldn't have been the incredible success that it was!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mother Nature’s gambling den

How to ski steep and deep... while stacking the odds in your favour.

To the average flatlander, skiers’ obsession with powder snow must seem a bit ridiculous. Why on earth would go to so much effort, so much expense and generally risk your neck for a bit of frozen rain?

The simplest answer I can give is this: riding steep untracked powder is an experience that leaves any other non-medicinal recreation for dead.

Why? Well, the nature of powder snow is such that you don’t so much travel across it as fly through it, piloting your skis or board in three dimensions. Plus the surface itself is incredibly forgiving, more so even than water, allowing you to drop cliffs and have wipe-outs that’d send you to the emergency room on any other surface.

Then there’s the whole kinaesthetic side of it. The rhythmic motion of linked turns in deep snow is a little like dancing to a steady, thumping baseline – the sort of rhythmic movement that awakens the primal hunter-gatherer part of your brain; the beast within - Grrr!

When you combine these things it’s like being a superhero for the day – flying faster than a speeding bullet, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, surviving blows that would kill any mortal man. It’s an endorphin rush, an adrenalin rush and a head rush all at once. Better than any drug… and way more addictive.

You see, there are no guarantees with snow – especially in a maritime climate like New Zealand – you can have champagne powder one day, slush the next, and ice day after that. It’s Mother Nature’s gambling den; you get a random reward with a random frequency. It’s no surprise people get hooked.

The problem is snow’s a tricky substance, when it’s freshly fallen it’s light as eider down, but given the right conditions it can form into dense layers (often hidden deep in the snow pack) that can peel off a mountainside when triggered by the weight of a skier.

To make matters worse, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be hard to tell just how securely things are stuck together– in effect, you won't know whether you’re playing a 20c poker machine or betting everything at the high rollers table.

So what’s a hapless powder-addict to do? One word my alpine amigos: learn.

If you're reading and this thinking "hey, that sounds like me" and you happen to be in Queenstown*, then a great way to get started is taking place on Thursday the 27th of August at the World Bar (yes… before you ask… you are allowed to drink beer at the same time), with the screening of the mould-breaking avalanche movie The Fine Line.

Event Director, Sophie Kennedy from AdventureSkope, who was one of the first on the scene at the recent avalanche that killed Ryan Campbell, says what she saw that afternoon inspired her to organise the screening.

“Although we weren't able to save Ryan, I hope that by screening this movie and increasing avalanche awareness in Queenstown, we might be able to prevent situations like this happening in the future.”

“If you have any interest in avalanches, snow sports, backcountry access or simply exquisite cinematography you should see this film. You just never know, someone's life might depend on it some day," she said.

The film’s cutting-edge cinematography which includes wire-cam, time-lapse, animation – and even a claymation cameo – has seen it win a swag of international awards including "Best at Festival" at the 2009 Fernie Mountain Film Festival, “Best Director” as the X-Dance film festival and "Absolute Winner - King of Films" at the 2009 Livigno Film Festival in Italy. Check this out to whet your appetite (or click here):

Doors open at the World Bar, Queenstown at 6.30pm with the film starting at 7.00pm. Tickets are $10 with all proceeds going to Search & Rescue. House drinks are $4 and entry to the spot prize draw is included.

If you’re a skier or boarder, and you’ve ever found yourself gazing wistfully at the untracked powder beyond the ski area boundaries, then $10 for a ticket – available at the door - could well be the best money you’ve ever spent.

*If you're not in the neighbourhood, then get on a plane... but seriously, if you visit Rocky Mountain Sherpas you can buy the DVD, or maybe track down a screening near you.