Takes second at World Heli Challenge
While the rest of us spent the past couple of weeks riding single-track, paddling rivers and whatever else we do in the summer around here, Crested Butte professional ski patroller and snowboarder extraordinaire Susan Mol was on the other side of the globe competing in the World Heli Challenge in Wanaka, New Zealand, August 28 through September 12.
Mol had a phenomenal 2008-2009 season of competing, including taking first place in the overall Freeride World Tour points.
Then, she caught wind of the World Heli Challenge and decided to keep the train rolling.
“I emailed Tony ‘Harro’ Harrington [event creator and organizer] and said ‘Hi, I’m number one in the world, can I come?,’” says Mol. “Didn’t look at the dates or the cost or really anything ahead of time.”
The World Heli Challenge is unique in that it encompasses three different disciplines: big mountain, freestyle and downhill.
Prior to the event Mol maintained her focus back here in the states in a variety of ways.
“Work, climb, run, stretch, watch some snowboard porn, visualize, strap my snowboard on and jump around on my bed, dream,” says Mol.
The event opened with the freestyle day as athletes were given a slope with natural features and an hour to build lips, check landings and create a plan.
While big mountain riding is Mol’s specialty, she had plans for a front flip on the freestyle day until she missed her take-off. Nonetheless, Mol came out of the first day with a third-place finish.
With two feet of fresh snow and bluebird skies, the competition continued the next day with the big mountain event as athletes were dropped off on Mt. Albert and given carte blanche to drop in anywhere on the incredible venue in two separate runs.
“By far the coolest venue I’ve ever competed on in my 10-year career,” says Mol. “Spires, flutes, chutes and cliffs with a fresh coat of paint and loaded with options.”
Mol took to her feet for her first run, boot-packing up to reach a fluted sub-peak before dropping in. Mol worked the spine and then lined up a cliff-drop, clipping her edge on the take-off, sending her backwards.
Mol recovered from the fall to charge the bottom portion of the venue and then returned to the top for redemption on her second run.
This time Mol moved the other side of the venue to work through a series of spires before finding a clean line and then pointed to the finish.
“It was like a maze and I kept making little turns until I popped out into the main couloir,” explains Mol. “I enjoyed some big pow turns and ended straight lining through a skinny chute at the bottom.”
Mol closed the second day of the competition with a second-place finish, leaving just the downhill event for the complete trifecta.
Thanks to the weather, the downhill was held the next day and athletes lined up to start at the same time with fastest taking the win. While Mol admits she was nervous at first, once it started it became clear what she had to do.
“All I have to do is go straight, no problem,” says Mol.
She closed the third day in second place and finished with second place overall for the event.
While no cash was on the line, Mol was more than happy with the overall experience and now has her sights set on Europe.
“No cash prizes, only bottles of wine,” says Mol. “The experience is the reward.”