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Meet Ben Hume

We had a chat with Central Otago based Engineer, Ben Hume about how he got into skiing, where it has taken him, and life outside of skiing. 

• April 7th 2020

"I remember being so stoked my first time going up different lifts and down new runs. I used to only ski a week or so a year, leaving me to think about what I was missing out on for 51 weeks at a time."

Wide Open: Hi Ben, can you tell us a bit about where you grew up?

Ben Hume: Hi! I grew up about an hour drive from Wanaka and Queenstown, just outside a small town called Clyde. It’s a pretty classic Central Otago town surrounded by farms, orchards, vineyards and of course the infamous Clyde Dam.

WO: We understand skiing is a large part of your life, when did you start skiing and what inspired you to learn?

BH: I can’t put an exact date on it, but I think I was first put on skis around 3 years old at Treble Cone, although I have no memory of it.

What inspired me to learn in the early days was simply being able to ski different places on the mountain. I remember being so stoked my first time going up different lifts and down new runs. I used to only ski a week or so a year, leaving me to think about what I was missing out on for 51 weeks at a time.

Watching ski movies as a kid got me hyped, it still does. Every trick landed or line skied looked so sick, I always wanted to be like the guys in the movies.

wide out Parsons Dollar - Olympus 2019.jpg

"Watching ski movies as a kid got me hyped, it still does. Every trick landed or line skied looked so sick, I always wanted to be like the guys in the movies."

WO: What was the most challenging thing about learning to ski?

BH: The hardest thing for me while learning to ski was just getting time on snow. Ski season in New Zealand is relatively short, even more so on a bad snow year. Sometimes it feels like I’ve just bought myself back up to speed by the time its closing day. Being able to dedicate a season, month or even just a couple weeks to skiing is by far the best way to progress.

WO: You started off 2020 with a trip overseas to compete in Freeride competitions - When did you decide to compete in Freeride? Which was your first ski competitions/s, and how did it bring you to where you are today?

BH: I was 14 when I did my first competition, Junior Nationals Big Mountain. I Ended up getting 3rd that year which was to enough to convince my dad to let me keep competing and go skiing more often. After that I started competing in the NZ Freeski Open (now The North Face Frontier), the first year I lied about my age to get in which is funny to think about.

Towards the end of my high school years, Dion Newport (Freeride World Tour Judge and genuinely good bloke) started the NZ Junior Freeride Tour. This paved the way for me and so many other Kiwi freeriders to compete all over the place. Dion has a huge impact on Freeride in New Zealand, it’s crazy to think what the scene would be like without him. I’m sure my life would be a whole lot different if it weren’t for Dion.

What does the day of a Freeride competition look like for you?

 

- Wake up early, maybe 4:30am Depending on how close I’m staying to the host mountain. Smash a big breakfast then hit the road.
- Arrive up the hill, catch up with everyone I haven’t seen in a while.
- Pick up my Bib.
- Riders briefing.
- Try to pick up a bib for a mate if they didn’t make it to the riders briefing. Very common occurrence!
- Load the lift around 8-9am to scope of the face. Most of the time I’ll have a couple of different line options in my head, having looked at (not skied, that’s cheating) the venue the day or week before or by looking at photos provided by the event organizer.
- Figure out my final line choice.
- First rider drops around 9-10am. Depending on my bib number I’ll watch as many riders as I can before hiking to the start gate. This gives you a better idea of snow conditions, how big features (cliffs, wind lips, chutes) are and how well your line will go.
- Once I’m at the top I’ll climb around and figure out the entry to my line by memorizing landmarks and comparing these to photos on my phone.
- Once I’ve got my run dialled, I try to take my mind off things. A few quick stretches and a yarn with the starter never goes a miss.
- On a good day I’ll make it to the bottom of the face in one piece having stomped my run. With any luck someone will be waiting there with a beer or two, then it’s time to relax and watch the rest of the competitors throw down.
- After the comp has finished a big rat pack will form and head to the nearest jumps/cliffs/terrain park for what is usually the best afternoon all season. Its crazy what happens when you have so many good skiers in one place, all feeding off each other’s energy, trying to one up each other. This is one my favourite aspects of competition skiing. This video sums it up well.

WO: Can you tell us about your favourite experience skiing to date?

BH: I’m not very good at picking favourites, I had a few days in Verbier, Switzerland in Feb/March that were pretty all time. But, for the purpose of a trip down memory lane, I would have to say CUBA (Canterbury University Board-riders Association) ski week 2019 at Mount Olympus. With $3 Double Browns stocked at the bar, CUBA ski week was supposed to be a social occasion more than anything. Somehow, the stars aligned, and we scored 2 unreal powder days, one of which was my best day of the season. This combined with having a bunch of mates there having a belter of a time was a pretty hard feeling to beat.

Here are a couple of clips.

WO: Skiing has taken you around the world – can you tell us where you’ve been and the challenges and highlights you’ve had along the way?

BH: I’ve only been overseas a few times with skiing, the major challenge being money. Skiing is already super expensive so if you’re trying to do it on the other side of the world, you’re going to want to save up a bit of coin and be prepared to rough it.

When it comes to highlights, there are too many to write down. To name a few: snow quality, snow depth and access to terrain. The Alps in Europe seem to be a giant interconnected system of chairlifts, gondolas and trams. It’s crazy the type of terrain you can get on top of by jumping in/on a lift.

Another highlight would have to be the people you meet along the way. Even with the language barrier, it’s super easy to make friends given the shared passion of skiing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIFE BEYOND SKIING

WO: What does life beyond skiing look like for Ben Hume?

BH: For the past 4 years I was living in Christchurch, studying towards a Mechanical Engineering Degree at the University of Canterbury. I wrapped that up in November and am now a (somewhat) qualified Engineer!


 

"Having left Christchurch and returned to Central Otago, I spend Monday-Friday working for a small Engineering company."


 

On the weekends I like to get out and about, whether that be in the hills, on the lake or on the trails. I’m lucky enough to live where I do with so much easy access for outdoor activities.

Nothing is set in stone yet but I’m hoping to work remotely somewhere close to the mountains this winter. Who said life beyond skiing had to be a life beyond skiing?

WO:  Ben, can you tell us a bit about your work as an engineer?

BH: I work in the design office for a small Company based in Central Otago. Most of the work I do surrounds Heavy Vehicle Engineering and Agriculture Equipment Design. I really value working at a small company, feedback is readily available anytime I need it. Being so fresh out of University, you could imagine that is quite often.

My favourite aspect of work life so far has been seeing projects come together from design phase to something tangible that you can see being built and put to use. The start of my Engineering career has been pretty enjoyable, although I must admit, it has been a little difficult to go back to a desk after 2 months of skiing…

WO: For those times when you can’t get out and ski – what do you do to keep your fitness and training up in the off-season?


 

"Outside of skiing months I like to ride my mountain bike as much as I can, that seems to keep me entertained and in decent shape."


 

Leading up to winter and/or a trip overseas I’ll be in the gym 2-4 times a week for a couple of months to get the ski legs ready.

WO: Lastly, what would you say to other people thinking about taking up skiing?

BH: Get out there and give it a go! There’s no better way to get through the mid-winter blues than a bit of fresh mountain air. Early bird season passes are cheap as chips these days, get one yourself, tell your mates and you’ll be away laughing.
It can be a great way to recover after a few too many Friday work drinks. Just don’t forget that skiing is good for your hangover, but a hangover isn’t good for your skiing.

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WIDE OPEN, POC SPORTS