The third and final challenge of the inaugural international Obsidian Team challenge was held on Wednesday the 13th of September. The challenge was an epic Backcountry Freestyle competition held on the ET face in the spectacular Minaret Range accessed by helicopter. After the Big Air Challenge and the Park Challenge Team Americas went into the final challenge as the leaders, with Team Europe right on their tail, just seven points behind them. Team Europe were the clear winners of the Backcountry Freestyle Challenge, throwing down traditional freeride lines dropping cliffs, building a huge backcountry booter stomping technical tricks and working together as a team, with team member Nicolas Huber bring the hype! Team Europe took such a convincing win at the Backcountry Freestyle Challenge that they leapfrogged Team Americas in the overall standings took home the coveted Edgar Challenge Trophy as the 2023 Obsidian champions. In the overall standings Team Americas finished in second place, Team Oceania in third place and Team Asia in fourth place. Team Oceania did take home the prize for the best team vibe, working together as a cohesive unit and supporting each other throughout their day in the backcountry. Wednesday dawned clear and calm after a few days of windy weather in the Southern Lakes region. After an extensive briefing at Southern Lakes Heliski on Tuesday, the athletes were full of anticipation for the day that lay ahead. For many Obsidian athletes this was their first time in a helicopter, with excitement levels at an all-time high. The day started early, with the athletes transported out to the pick-up zone in the Matukituki Valley. From there they were transported by helicopter up to the ET face. This face was perfect for the challenge as it contained rolling playful terrain with plenty of natural features with great zones for the athletes to enhance the terrain. The format saw the athletes moving down the face as a team, accompanied by a guide and a videographer. The teams got to choose their lines based on the current ranking, so Team Americas got first pick. Team Europe, who have been incredibly strategic throughout Obsidian, made the decision to choose a completely different zone from Team Americas. Team Oceania also chose their own unique line with Team Asia opting for a line that had similarities with Team Americas. The team’s videographer captured the action as they made their way down the face, using natural terrain features and building features to hit. The rules stipulated that each athlete had to feature in the video, and they were also rewarded for their teamwork. After their first run down each team had the option to bump back up to the top and take a second run. This is where the team’s tactics really came into play, with Team Europe opting out of the second lap, and instead decided to keep hitting the huge backcountry booter they had built. This certainly paid off for Team Europe. The judges added a slightly different twist to the backcountry freestyle criteria - not only did they reward individual performances and allocate points to rank each category, but there were also points given out based on how well each team worked together. Lead Obsidian judge Tori Beattie explained; “Against all odds we managed to sneak this event in between two major fronts, the competitors had the day of their lives. Every team worked together so well, and each took a vastly different approach. The teamwork was the winner on the day, and we saw epic tricks go down in the beautiful New Zealand backcountry.” The format was incredibly well received by the athletes, with two-time Winter Olympian snowboarder Nicolas Huber (Team Europe) describing Obsidian as “the best competition I have ever been a part of.” Ruby Star Andrews (Team Oceania) got to experience her first time in a helicopter, explaining “I was losing my mind when we were taking off, it was such a crazy feeling! It was such an awesome day out in the mountains with some of my best mates.” This wraps up the 2023 edition of Winter Games NZ and firmly marks the International Obsidian Team Challenge as a huge success – we can’t wait to see you all again in 2024.
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