'Tough' mountain to climb for Kiwi racers

Tue Feb 10, 2015 11:06am EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - New Zealand boasts some of the most spectacular alpine scenery in the world but a relatively short skiing season has made it "tough" for racers from that country to make an impact at the top level.

Best known for its often dominant All Black rugby union team, the Land of the Long White Cloud is fiercely proud of its athletes who have made a habit of punching well above their weight but role models in alpine skiing are few and far between.

Only five World Cup races have been won by New Zealanders, all of them clinched by women in the slalom, and the country's sole medal at the Winter Olympics was the slalom silver earned by Annelise Coberger at the 1992 Albertville Games.

"It is tough for us," New Zealand's giant slalom champion Willis Feasey told Reuters at Beaver Creek where he is competing in his first alpine ski world championships.

"We have some of the best skiing in the world, it's just that the seasons there are so short that you have to hit it right.

"For training especially, you need a lot of mileage and we don't really get that so much in New Zealand. But what we do get is some of the best skiing facilities anywhere."

Forced to look elsewhere out of season, Feasey spends up to six months each year training and competing overseas.

"I am based in Austria, in Leogang, for the season but we also come over to Copper Mountain here in Colorado for November and December when the rest of the countries don't have as much snow," he said.   Continued...