Around 50 athletes from 10 nations will ride the slopes in Treble Cone, New Zealand, to open the 2017-18 World Para Snowboard season from Friday (1 September).
The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ encompasses a winter sports festival that includes two Para snowboard banked slalom events over two days of competition. The first day on Friday will see the World Para Snowboard Southern Hemisphere Cup take place, followed by the World Cup season kicking off on Saturday (2 September), as athletes prepare for the crucial PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in March.
Team USA have the largest team with 19 athletes and is expected to perform strongly after taking seven medals across 10 events at the 2017 World Championships in Big White, Canada.
Among those is Mike Minor, who will debut after a successful 2016-17 campaign that saw him win two World Championships medals – gold in snowboard-cross and silver in banked slalom in the men’s SB-UL. He concluded the season with the World Cup overall crystal globe, finishing atop the rankings in both events.
Teammate and overall World Cup winner Evan Strong heads into Treble Cone as the strong favourite in the men’s SB-LL2 category. The 30-year-old is looking to bounce back from the disappointment of missing the banked slalom podium at Big White 2017. His closest competitor is Japan’s Gurimu Narita, who had an outstanding season and was the snowboarder who kept Strong off the Worlds podium. The USA’s Mike Shea will also battle for a podium spot over the weekend.
The USA’s Mike Schultz, banked slalom World Championships runner-up, is the one to beat in the men’s SB-LL1 category.
The women’s SB-LL1 will be a US duel between World Cup third overall Nicole Roundy and Amy Purdy, who captured bronze in the event at Big White 2017.
Australia’s Worlds bronze medallist Joany Badenhorst is the frontrunner for the women’s SB-LL2.
Live results from the World Para Snowboard Southern Hemisphere Cup and World Cup events will be found on World Para Snowboard’s website.