Arrowtown can lay claim to one of New Zealand's most promising skiing talents in the form of Harrison Steedman. TRISH McKENZIE looks at what is an exciting future for this Wakatipu High School student.
Seventeen-year-old Arrowtown ski racer Harrison Steedman has traded the past three months of Central Otago sunshine and green hills for snowy slopes and intensive ski training and racing in the United States.
The intense training is aimed at meeting his goals during the next two years of achieving a top-30 finish at the world championships in Garmish, Germany, and a top-10 finish at the junior world championshipsin Roccaraso, Italy, in 2012.
On December 3, the already well-travelled athlete departed once again for colder climates as a member of the New Zealand ski team.
With his results from last year including a top-10 finish in the Australia New Zealand cup slalom, second in the national slalom for under 20s, third in the men's open national slalom, first New Zealander in the Australia New Zealand Cup Slalom and the Wakatipu High School Blues, he was confident he was well on the way to achieving his goals.
With the completion of his year 12 NCEA exams (which he passed with merit), Harrison was able to relish the opportunity for a little bit of a social life, something that is quite rare in his training programme.
He got to enjoy a little bit of Central sunshine before heading to California to train with the Sugar Bowl Academy.
Although a February 5 return date was initially scheduled, this has since been extended, and Harrison will not return home until the start of next month – a late start to tackling his final year at Wakatipu High School.
Harrison's mum, Colleen, describes her son as "eating, breathing and sleeping skiing". Little did she and her husband, Garry, realise that when they first put their son on to a pair of skis at the age of two how far the sport would take him.
But perhaps when he told them as a 5-year-old, that all he wanted to do was "Go fast", they to an inkling of his determination.
Things are great in hindsight. Being part of the "fabulous Academy" at Wakatipu High School since he was in year 7, has been an integral part of Harrison's skiing development through the years.
The academy allows students to train in the mornings and to attend school after lunch through until 5.45pm.
"The kids in this academy have to be very organised," Mrs Steedman said.
"The days are full on year round, with the winter season geared around skiing and rac-ing."
The racing can be on the local slopes or further afield at Mount Hutt.
Harrison progress from his time as a member of the Wakatipu Ski Club, through to the Queenstown Alpine Ski Team and more recently the New Zealand National Development team.
The academy's day includes an eating regime for skiers.
The diet includes lots of protein and pasta over five meal sessions, aimed at ensuring all the athletes maintain their weight, fitting in daily gym sessions and at the end of the day, spending crucial time to make sure their skis were "tuned" right.
Tending to the skis can diminish the glamour of the sport – it can take up to two hours to get right.
During the past three months has Harrison has frantically skied and trained on various slopes in the US, covering many, many kilometres as the group travels from event to event.
Harrison says that many of these journeys tend to be boring and monotonous such as the 17- hour trip that took him from Winter Park in Colorado to Truckee in California.
He described it as "an epic", which was split into a 10-hour drive that involved fog, ice, snow and elk in the middle of the road, followed by a seven-hour drive across the boring salt flats just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The trip was all part of getting from one slope to another or from one event to the next Harrison had encountered ski conditions which varied from wonderful powder slopes to others that were quite rutted – making it really hard to ski.
However, Harrison knows he has benefited from the time in America, and embraced all that was offered to him.
He described the time spent on the slopes as very good exposure to world-class racing and an excellent experience for him.
A return to Queenstown will mean a little more warmth for Harrison, although there has been opportunity to relax in warmer climates while overseas and experience and participate in some of America's culture, including American Football and surfing at a beach just north of San Francisco.
In a matter of days it will be back to reality, Mum's cooking, home life and school for Harrison, something he is undoubtedly looking forward to.
However, he says he won't miss the travelling.
- © Fairfax NZ News