A video of Victor De Le Rue, Alex Meliss, and Antoine Truchet skiing and snowboarding down a dry Mauna Kea on the Big Island has sparked outrage from some Hawaiians. The University of Hawaii’s Office of Mauna Kea management says the athletes “defaced and scarred the mountain” by racing down the south side of the volcanic cone known as Puʻu Poliʻahu. According to reports, UH officials say they don’t have the jurisdiction to levy fines and the ordeal has brought on criticism from the community, saying they need better management rules for the area.
According to Stephanie Nagata, director of OMKM under the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the athletes never applied for any required permits to film and would have been denied had they attempted to anyway, mainly because the land is considered sacred to Native Hawaiians. Beyond saying that it defaced and scarred the land, officials argue their stunt may have damaged the Wēkiu bug habitat, which was first discovered in 1979 and can only be found on that summit.
“First and foremost, this act was disrespectful to Native Hawaiians and to everyone who considers the mountain sacred,” Nagata said. “One of the first acts by Kahu Ku Mauna in 2001 shortly after its creation was to stop vehicular access traffic on the pu‘u because it is a sacred site.”
From the athletes’ perspective, that particular area is actually a well-known spot for riding snow in Hawaii. The Inertia was recently at the Freeride World Tour event at Kicking Horse Mountain in Golden, British Columbia and one of the athletes told us that they’d hoped to ride snow but that the mountainous region was too dry this year.
The video apparently has been taken down from the athletes’ social media channels, but highlights can still be found in some news reports and in the above Youtube video. According to KITV4 Island News, the video was at one point posted to @redbullsnow and has since been taken down, although the company reportedly released a statement to distance themselves from the expedition by pointing out that it “was not a Red Bull project.”