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Obsidian: New Winter Games NZ Event

by Nick Baines August 10, 2020

A New Format - Kiwi Style

The NZ Winter Games has a new look year. Many riders have been unable to make it out to the Southern hemisphere for the winter season. Refusing to be closed down by the virus, Kiwi organisers came up with a new local format; Obsidian.

The Obsidian is an epic new mixed Team Challenge event set across New Zealand’s Southern Alps. 21 of New Zealand’s best freeski and snowboard athletes pitted against each other in four progressive events over a ten-day weather window between the 10th and 20th of August 2020.

Quality Team Line Up

Each 9-person team comprised a mix of 7 elite snow sport athletes and 2 world class videographers. Male and female, ski and snowboard, freeride and park athletes and led by a Team Captain.

From Conception to reality the Obsidian has been an athlete focused, sport and content driven event with Olympic medalists, Freeride World Tour winners and film orientated athletes at the top of their game involved throughout the journey.

team kuzmaTop to Bottom (L- R) Finn Bilous, Janina Kuzma (Captain), Jase Hancox Film (videographer), Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, Jackson Wells, Blake Marshall, Mitchell Davern and JJ Rayward. 

team smoothieTop to Bottom (L- R) Hank Bilous, Sam Smoothy (Captain), Diaries Downunder (videographers), Jess Hotter, Christy Prior, Tiarn Collins, Ronan Thompson and Beau-James Wells.

team kuzma
Top to Bottom (L- R) Craig Murray, Jossi Wells (Captain), Two Bearded Men (videographers), Will Jackways, Nico Porteous, Margaux Hackett, Claire McGregor and Carlos Garcia Knight.

Team Wells Crowned Champions

Team Wells was crowned victorious at the Obsidian 2020 on Friday 28 August after a tight race which came down to the wire. After five challenges Team Wells snatched the win by only 20 points ahead of their rivals Team Kuzma and Team Smoothy, who were tied on 500 points each on the overall leaderboard.

Throughout the ten-day weather window and the five sports and videography challenges, the 3 teams have been evenly matched.

“I was so excited to be part of this event to ski all the different disciplines and then to get hurt. The whole uncomfortable theme rang true,” said an animated Jossi Wells.

The Freeski legend had to lead his team from the sidelines for the event when he broke his wrist on the first challenge of the Big Air.

“From the very beginning I worked super hard with Tim Pierce from Two Bearded Men on the concept of the overall video and we landed on the Comfortable theme. Then we jump into the first day of competition and I get smoked."

Local world-class videographers Two Bearded Men joined Team Wells documenting their journey. Their final film named “Comfortable” was a stylish edit delving into the mindset of these talented sportsmen and women.

5 Challenges, 1 Winner

The teams out in New Zealand’s Southern Alps threw it down to see who took the title over the ten-day weather window. Spread over five challenges including 4 events and a video edit, the very best of New Zealand’s snow athletes competed for the Edgar Challenge Trophy

Freeride - A classic freeride competition format with an epic heli accessed mountain as this year’s field of play. 

Park Jam - A stylish jam format that allowed the park athletes to shine. Cardrona Alpine Resort built a custom rail garden in lower Stag Lane to allow as much freedom of expression and creativity as possible.

Big Air - This Big Air event saw our park athletes bringing their A game to the third jump in Cardrona's Big Bucks park.

Mountain Shred - This challenge is about videography as well as our sport! Each team was allocated a different local resort, where they shredded the mountain and session a line of their choice involving natural and enhanced features on the mountain.  

Their team videographers will create a video edit from the day, from which they will be judged 50% by the sports panel on the athletes tricks and execution and 50% by the media panel on the teams creativity and quality of the edit. 

Obsidian Videography Edit - Each Obsidian team had a world class production company embedded as part of their crew. This challenge is the opportunity for the videographers to shine.

They brought their creative genius to the table and crafting an 8 minute edit of their team’s journey at the Obsidian that must be filmed within the 10-day weather window.

The Obsidian ‘Joker’ Card

Each team was given a Joker Card, which allowed them to score double points in a chosen event. However, the team needed to nominate which event they planned to play their Joker Card in to maximise their points in areas of strength, or hold up the rear in event’s that could pose weaknesses.

Content Driven Format

There are elements of the Obsidian event that draw from the Vice TV and Thrasher Skateboard magazine collaboration King of The Hill, and this content driven approach is no accident.

With snow sports fans and athletes having their northern hemisphere winters cut short due to COVID-19 pandemics, Obsidian offers a new and engaging way to digest and showcase world class ski and snowboarding.

Perhaps one of the best things about this new challenge event, is that viewers get to see more than just three good runs in a heat, but see how these riders approach the mountain, the work that goes into filming a good line, and the characters that lurk behind the goggles.

The Obsidian challenge event took place from August 10th – 20th 2020. Further video edits are available on wintergamesnz.kiwi

Obsidian would not be possible without the following partners:

Major Funding Partner
  • New Zealand Major Events
Broadcast Partner
  • Sky Sport
Funding Partners
  • Sport New Zealand
  • New Zealand Olympic Committee
  • Queenstown Lakes District Council
  • Lake Wanaka Tourism
  • Destination Queenstown
Resort Partners
  • Cardrona 
  • Coronet Peak
  • The Remarkables 
  • Treble Cone
Grant Funders
  • Otago Community Trust
  • The Southern Trust
  • Four Winds Foundation 
  • Callis Trust

Nick Baines
Nick Baines


With an insatiable thirst for travel, Nick Baines is a journalist based on the UK’s south coast. With more than 20 years experience in snow sports, he’s contributed features to publications all over the world.


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