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Going sky high – one of our freeski champs

Freeskiing is the one where skiers fly into the air off jumps, ski up the sides of 22-foot half pipes, and ‘throw down’ rails. At 16, local Queenstowner Holly Ingram, is making tracks in this extreme sport. She is one of only a handful of boys and girls from Queenstown freesking at international level. That’s a big deal in a town with two ski fields on its doorstep and a further two further afield. Yet, she only started skiing at the age of 9, after moving to Queenstown with her dad and stepmum. We caught up with her off the back of her recent experience representing New Zealand at the Winter Games in the half pipe.

What was it like competing at the Winter Games?

Competing at the Winter Games in New Zealand has definitely been a career highlight. The games are a junior world championship annual event, which meant I was competing against the best junior’s in the world including several Olympians. It was an amazing experience which took a lot of hard work to get to, qualifying 2 weeks before at the NZ open where I placed top NZ girl in the half pipe. I was very proud of myself that I got to represent New Zealand.

What do you love about skiing?

I just love it. It’s so much fun! Skiing presents so much opportunity, whether its meeting new people or travelling and representing New Zealand on the world stage.

Skiing has brought a lot of genuine friendships. The girls I ski with are super supportive, and I’m always have fun with them.

How did you get into competitive freeskiing?

We moved down to Queenstown from Auckland when I was eight. Dad and my mum were snowboarders and I had skied twice before in the North Island, so we spent a lot of time on the snow. I just got some old skis and gave it a go, and just loved it straight away, especially when we got in to park [rails, boxes].

I had some old skis for my first season here. I don’t even know the brand but they looked like there were literally from the 80s, with pointy skis, curved up. I’m pretty sure the boots were plastic. They didn’t have any lining. It was quite funny.

My dad took me to Snow Park, which doesn’t exist anymore. It was a massive terrain park with plenty of features. I got new skis and boots for my next birthday, and started training on a Tuesday night and a Sunday.

When Snowpark closed, I started training at Cardrona’s High Performance Centre, and have been there now for five years.  That’s where I discovered the half pipe. HPC is focused on competitions so it wasn’t long before I was competing.

What do you love about the half pipe?

When you come out of the pipe, you look down and see there is so much room where you could screw it up and that’s cool. It’s a risk. I know the risks, but you also have to know when to take risks. You have to know how your body is feeling and how to judge it. It’s about being responsive.

I love that feeling when you land a trick or when you do well at a comp and you meet your goals.

Do you still get nervous competing after all these years?

I’ve learned to sort of dull my nerves, I guess. Of course, you still get nervous but I always say, “You’ve done this run so many times. It’s just another day in the pipe”.

Does it take a toll physically?

During the season, I train 3 times a week, more during school holidays. I have sunken arches, so I have to manage that, and the cramps it causes. I am sponsored by Southern Sports podiatry, and that’s been really helpful to getting a good solution for my feet.  Sometimes you just have to push through knowing you’ll get a rest day or ice it later. As well being a high school student, I also work at Glassons in town, so there aren’t too many rest days.

In terms of injuries, I got a concussion last year after I fell in the pipe, and I’ve broken my thumb.

It’s also a very expensive sport, and has huge time commitments to ourselves and family. My dad gets up really early to drop me off at the bus, or to drive me to Cardrona to get to the half pipe when it opens at 7:30.

But we also work hard to do it ourselves. I pay for a lot of training myself. But that also makes you work harder, because you know you’ve put all that money into it. It makes it worth it.

It’s definitely hard to be a girl in this sport, in terms of getting sponsorship, the difference in value of prizes, and sometimes it feels like we don’t get as much support as the boys, or even from the boys you ride with. Sometimes that makes you want to give up, but you’re not going to give up something you’re passionate about and enjoy so much just because you’re being pushed back.

What keeps you going?

Skiing is so much fun and gives you an awesome feeling of freedom, it’s a really creative and positive sport thats always giving back.

Over the years I had grants from the Bruce Grant Youth Foundation of Queenstown, and backing from a private sponsor, as well as sponsorship from awesome brands including Planks and Volkl. It’s hard to get sponsorship so I am really grateful to all these people.  

There is so much support within the female freestyle community to make our sport progress and make it more popular.  We are always helping each other and pushing each other to be better all the time.

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