A Brief History of Alpine Ski Racing in NZ

An early effort to establish skiing as a sport in New Zealand took place in 1909 when Captain Head and Lawrence Earle introduced skis among the guides at Mount Cook.  

More than ten years later, the first ski races took place in New Zealand. Racing events became an important means of contact between the ski clubs in early years. The first nationwide ski championships were held at Ruapehu in 1929 with a 'long distance' discipline. In 1930 the Ski-Running Championships were added, with Slalom included from 1931 and Downhill in 1932. The 1933 Championships, held at Mt Cook, included five disciplines with the Jump also added to the schedule. Women first began competing in 1933, taking part in Ski-running, Slalom and Downhill.

The South Island’s first ski club was formed in Christchurch in 1929, called the Canterbury Winter Sports Club. The first competitions between New Zealand and Australia began in the 1930s. Federated Mountain Clubs set up a ski sub-committee in 1931 and then a Ski Council in 1932 to organise these events. 

An independent New Zealand Ski Association was established in 1954. 

Neil Harrison, Roger Estall, John Morrison and Richard Johnson from Canterbury were the driving force in establishing FIS racing in New Zealand in the 1970s which lead to our very first World Cup races to be held in NZ in the 1990s. The world’s top racers came to Mount Hutt to contest World Cups in Slalom and Giant Slalom.

Richard Johnson and Neil Harrison were the first people from NZ to become FIS TDs. Neil also was New Zealand’s first course inspector to ratify all alpine race pistes in NZ. He worked on the homologation of all the major ski areas in New Zealand, including Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona, Treble Cone, Turoa and Whakapapa.

Neil  was also a representative on a number of FIS committees before he retired around 1994 after more than 20 years’ service (all on a voluntary basis). In 2004 he was made an Honorary Member of the FIS Sub-Committee for Alpine Courses.

Neil was responsible for bringing on the next wave of FIS TDs from NZ in the 90's.  Such as Ian McLean, Euan Paterson and Nigel Brown.

The 40th International FIS Ski Congress was held in Christchurch, NZ in 1996 and involved more than 1000 people, including 149 FIS delegates.

New Zealand ski racers have competed at most Winter Olympic Games since 1952, missing only the 1956 and 1964 Games. Annelise Coberger made history in 1992 winning New Zealand's first Winter Olympic medal with a silver in Slalom at the Albertville Games in France.  In the 1996/97 season Claudia Riegler was second overall in the Women’s World Cup Slalom, her results included three World Cup wins.

In 2019 Piera Hudson became the first NZ athlete in 15 years to achieve a top 30 result and score World Cup points, skiing from start bib 59 to finish 26th in the Slalom World Cup at the Killington Cup in Vermont, USA. 

Alice Robinson claimed New Zealand’s first Alpine Ski Racing World Cup medal in 17 years, finishing with a silver medal in Giant Slalom at the FIS Alpine World Cup Finals in Andorra in March 2019.

During the 2020 northern hemisphere season she went on to win two World Cup gold medals in Giant Slalom.

Alice earned her start at the World Cup Finals as the current Junior World Champion in Giant Slalom. She had been turning heads during the 2018/19 northern hemisphere season with a string of impressive results including a Europa Cup win and two Europa Cup silver medals, seventeenth place – including the fastest second run time – at the World Championships in Sweden in February, and a 16th-place finish at the World Cup in Spindleruv Mlyn, CZE on 8 March 2019.

Ski Racing New Zealand was incorporated in 1994 . In 2010 Snow Sports NZ took over from Ski Racing NZ.