• Billabong Slopestyle 2011 BEGINS!

The 10th annual Billabong Slopestyle has kicked off with some of snowboarding's biggest international names taking to the mountain today during Qualifying at Snow Park, near Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

Installing the giant Monster Can. Photo credit Chris Kirkham.
Installing the giant Monster Can. Photo credit Chris Kirkham.

With an increase in prize money and ratings points, the revamped four-star TTR (Ticket To Ride) World Tour event has attracted a world-class field of more than 90 entrants across three divisions.

The Slopestyle is the second stop on the 201/12 TTR World Tour and is also the first of its kind on the global calendar since the IOC (International Olympic Committee) Executive Board confirmed the discipline for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Globally renowned freestyle/freeride exponent Clint Allan (AUS) is among those who hit Snow Park's perfectly manicured course for a sneaky practice session yesterday, along with Open Men's competitors Nick Poohachoff (USA) and local hometown hero, Will Jackaways (NZ).

'I'm stoked to be back at Snow Park. Last time I was over here was a year ago and that was the last time I rode park, so it's cool to get back and everything's looking in really good shape so I'm excited to get back and get riding again,' said Clint.

'The standard of riding is definitely there ! I saw a bunch of kids going mad. I haven't been doing many comps lately and that can mean you lose sight of the kids that are sneaking through. So it was really inspiring to see the kids going crazy on the jumps.'

The diverse course features rails, 40ft, 50ft and 70ft jumps and a pretty cool final feature dubbed the 'monster volcano'; a channel-gap nipple jump with a giant inflatable Monster can situated in the gap. Perfect for tail bonks and whatever else the riders might try !

Reigning and two-time TTR World Champion Jamie Anderson (USA) dropped in for a few runs too, having flown into New Zealand with her boyfriend for an extended stay down under. The pair are looking to do a road trip to Milford Sound and maybe some heliboarding, but first things first the Billabong Slopestyle.

'The setup is amazing, I don't think I've ever seen it this great,' said Jamie.

'I saw a tonne of top riders practicing. I saw a few double corks, and I was like, -What! They're throwing down!' ! There's a lot of girls here too, so I think all round it is going to be a good event.'

Twenty year-old Anderson is recognised as being at the forefront of women's slopestyle progression and is the clear favourite in the Open Women's division.

However, she will have to overcome a hungry field of local challengers with the likes of 2010 Open Women's runner-up, Rebecca Torr (NZ), Abby Lockhart (NZ) and Shelly Gotlieb (NZ) in the mix for possible podium finishes.

Organisers hope to crown champions on Saturday, with Sunday a second option for finals day weather permitting.

Spectators and snowboarding fans are welcome to check out the action. If anyone is nearby, there are free buses available to Snowpark from Wanaka. Check out the website for more details.

The Billabong Slope-style is presented by Sony and made possible with the support of Monster Energy, Sony Ericsson, Snow Park, DaKine, VonZipper