Ohau to host US ski team

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Five Winter Olympic medalists from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics could be on their way to the Ohau Snow Fields later this month.

Ted Ligety in the giant slalom and Mikaela Shiffrin, slalom, claimed gold, while Andrew Weibrecht, super G, took silver and Julia Mancuso, super combined, and Bode Miller, super G, grabbed bronze at the last Winter Olympics.

The American squad is set to arrive at Ohau in late July and will stay for five weeks.

No squad as prominent as the American ski team has been based at Ohau before and Ohau Snow Fields owner Mike Neilson can’t wait for them to arrive.

“It will be awesome; they will be here for five weeks and while we will still be open to the public, there will be tracks set up for them to ski.”

During their five-week stay, Mr Neilson was confident the Americans would mingle with other ski users on their days off.

“From the sounds of it, they will mingle with the guests when they don’t have to practice and may even take a couple of lessons.”

Mr Neilson said the team had heard nothing but good things about Ohau and were looking forward to hitting their slopes.

Meanwhile, the snow field opened on July 3 four days behind schedule, due to the lack of snow.

While the last few years have been disappointing for the snow field due to the recession, Mr Neilson was really pleased with the turnout over the opening four days.

“It’s been really good the turnout so far, and it’s only early days but from the turnout so far, I think things might be starting to look promising for the first time since the Christchurch earthquake because people up there brought 35 per cent of our revenue.”

While the slopes were a little bare in places, Mr Neilson said he did not feel this was a problem, as they often did not get much snow until late July.

“It’s not an issue. We have had small amounts of snow fall, but we make our own snow now, which helps us a lot.”

With the snow field now harbouring their own snow-making machine, they are in the process of trying to get a chair lift to go all the way up to Second Peak, but are not able to do so at present with financial constraints.

By BRAYDEN LINDSAY

PHOTO: The Ohau Snow Field, where the US ski team will be training later this month.