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Kiwi freeskier shocks himself and the world with stunning debut season on the Freeride World Tour

Coby Moratti
coby ski pic
Fieberbrunn, Austria- The mountain Ben had his gold medal run on.  SUPPLIED

The South Island's own Ben Richards picked up an event gold, rookie of the year and a third place overall in his first year on the FWT.

A lifelong dream came true for Wānaka's Ben Richards, who started skiing at the age of two.

After a hard few years of grafting on the qualifying series, amongst the years of covid when international travel was nearly impossible, Ben pushed through a lot of adversity to be in the position he is now in. 

"Covid made traveling and competing a nightmare, events were just getting cancelled and it just added to the struggle of qualifying for the actual tour."

Ben's blessed by a supportive skiing community. He says they're very supportive, they're all mates off the slopes, regularly hanging out - regardless of nationality. 

Ben picked up a gold on the Fieberbrunn slopes in Austria, which was an unbelievable feeling, he said. Scoring a near perfect 97/100 was enough to be the best run of the comp.

"It's a judges' sport and the judges decided that I deserved it on the day, I'm thankful," the humble Kiwi joked. 

However, multiple 360 airs, huge jumps and the fastest run of the day according to the commentary indicate he was more than deserving. 

The Freeride tour stops are in Europe or Canada, so being from the other side of the world adds a hurdle to competing.

"I have to leave my family for six months, whereas, for example, the European guys can just jump on a train for a weekend away, then cruise home like no big deal." 

A fifth in the final event in Switzerland was enough to see him finish third overall and name him rookie of the year, which is an achievement he still can't wrap his head around.  

When asked how he'll use this season for motivation, Ben says he is nervous.

"Each year of my career I have one upped myself, from getting to the qualifiers, then to the tour. I haven't left much wiggle room to one up it next year.

"The competition is at such a high level, you can do your best and it still might not be enough. Regardless, the goal is to at least stay on the podium."  

Ben is currently living and training out of Canada, looking forward to next year's tour.

Ben's winning run, on the Fieberbrunn mountain!