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INTERVIEW: Competitive Skier Craig Murray

From learning to ski to competing with his brother, Charlie Murray in mountain bike races. We chatted with Craig about skiing, his travels, going into isolation, and what an average day looks like for him, read about it here. 

• April 25th 2020

Photo: Dom Daher / Freeride World Tour

"I'm primarily a skier, I have competed on the Freeride World Tour for 3 years now. When my brother Charlie and I were younger, we rode minibikes into their graves and raced often."

 

Wide Open: Hi Craig, can you tell us a bit about where you grew up?
Craig Murray: I grew up in Canterbury, New Zealand. Attending school in Chch but always spending our weekends and holidays in the Rakia and Coleridge basins. The family moved to Wanaka in 2012, so I am lucky enough to call both places home.

WO: From skiing to biking - Can you tell us a bit about your involvement in both sports?

CM: I am primarily a competitive skier. I have competed on the Freeride World Tour for 3 seasons now, before that, I was on the qualifying tour for a year and the Junior tour before that. I used to race a lot of biking with my brother Charlie when we were younger. We slowed down in high school because we started skiing so much. He picked biking back up two years ago and now competes on the EWS. His achievements and success in such a short time have inspired me to spend more time on two wheels!

cm3.jpgPhotos: Dom Daher / Freeride World Tour

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WO: Do you find there is much crossover between the trails and snow slopes?

CM: I do think there are some similarities between the two sports. At the end of the day you are descending with gravity and using equipment to turn or catch air. They are both high intensity and adrenaline based, I think the same mindsets and confidence can be used across both.
The roles that gear and technical understanding play are important in both. How the gear works, how you can adjust it and tailor to suit your style can be key. I think a lot of physical fitness can be gained from biking. There is definitely a visual component; where you are trying to keep your eyes up and react to the objects and features that you are flying by. Staying strong and good body positions through the legs and core in skiing, are not lost when riding.
Although there are some physical similarities, I love how different the sensations are, and I think that diversity is what draws me to each one.

WO: Have you competed with your brother Charlie? Can you tell us a bit about it?
CM: I have competed with Charlie my whole life. We still compete to this day, and I hope we always will, it's always good times. Our last competition together was 3peaks Enduro in Dunedin December 2019. The atmosphere competing with him is awesome, it and pushes both of us to be better and usually, that leads to good results. We unfortunately haven't been competing together often in the last two years due to reaching higher levels of two different (season & hemisphere) sports, but hopefully, we can get around that in some ways.

 

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Photos: Digby Shaw

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Craig on the podium with his brother, Charlie at the 3 Peaks Enduro

"I have competed with Charlie my whole life. We still compete to this day, and I hope we always will, it's always good times. Our last competition together was 3peaks Enduro in Dunedin December 2019."

WO: We understand skiing is a large part of your life, when did you start skiing and what inspired you to learn?
CM: I started skiing when I was around 3 years old. I followed my family around, and soon we had a little crew of skiers at the Club fields. I haven't looked back from there, always thriving in the rat pack and trying new things. I think a lot of my learning came from watching Charlie and the older skiers around me, monkey see monkey do sort of situation.

WO: What does the day of a ski event look like for you?
CM: Usually, a very early start and a big breakfast, then I get all my equipment sorted and make my way up the mountain before sunrise. It depends on the venue and approach to the peak, but hopefully I get one last look at the face through binoculars before starting the hike. The nerves generally kick in on the hike and make you feel pretty spaced out, but I try to focus once I get to the top and visualize my line as much as I can. I try to anticipate how things will come at me and how to react to different features. The event all seems to happen pretty quickly, we usually have a few beers after and go for some afternoon laps on the resort or another hike if the conditions are good. It all rolls into the prize ceremonies and after-parties.


"It depends on the venue and approach to the peak, but hopefully I get one last look at the face through binoculars before starting the hike" - 

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Photo: Dom Daher / Freeride World Tour

WO: You started off 2020 with a trip overseas, can you tell us where you traveled to, the challenges that you faced competing in the Freeride World Tour, and the highlights of your trip?
CM: I started off living in Revelstoke BC, which is an amazing spot for freeride and backcountry skiing with Glacier National Park only a short drive away. I began the competition season in January with a trip to Japan, then back to Canada for stop #2, before flying over to Europe at the end of February. After the event in Andorra, I had a 12th, 4th, and a crash, leaving me a little disappointed that I hadn't skied anything I was stoked on. Luckily in Austria at stop #4, I managed to land a run I was happy with and walk away with a win. This put me in 4th overall going into the Finale in Switzerland which was unfortunately canceled due to Covid. Overall I was stoked to come away with 4th after a slightly tricky competition season, the win in Austria definitely was the highlight for me.

WO: Due to COVID-19, you had to go into isolation when you returned to New Zealand, after this trip. Can you tell us about this experience?
CM: I was overseas and saw the situation deteriorating consistently, especially in North America and Europe. Once our last event was announced canceled I looked into flying home. I actually flew in on the day that isolation requirements were introduced and I was stoked to be picked up by my girlfriend and we went straight over to Jacksons Bay on the West Coast for most of the period. I then headed home to Wanaka for the rest of the lockdown period. I'm really hoping the worst of it can be taken care of in this lockdown.


 

Life outside of skiing and biking - can you tell us what an average day looks like for you?


 


CM: In an ideal day - I usually try to get up with the sun and get out for some exercise, then have a breakfast and chill session before doing any university work or athlete admin. If I need a stretch I'll look at Yoga for a break. Then have a big lunch, do some more work if it's pressing, then head out for an activity in the afternoon. I love to get on the water when possible, sometimes climbing too. I spend most the evening outside until the light is gone, hopefully, followed by socialising with a crew, or reading beside the fire.

WO: Where do you work when you’re back in New Zealand?

CM: I am currently studying at the University of Canterbury when I am back home in NZ (July to November). That seems to take up most of my time, however, I am a casual contractor for DOC in Fiordland on remote island pest eradication programs. I also occasionally work as an assistant outdoor instructor at Mount Aspiring College.

 

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