Winter Olympics: Kiwi slalom ski hopeful Piera Hudson back on track for Beijing after COVID-19 alert level drop

The return to COVID-19 Alert Level 2 outside Auckland has been vital for our top snow sport athletes, as they prepare for the Beijing Winter Olympics, which are now less than 150 days away. 

After initial fears they would need to leave early for Europe with the country in lockdown, that's no longer the case.

The boots are being buckled up and the goggles are on, and most importantly for slalom skier Piera Hudson, she is back on the slopes.

"It's pretty amazing to be back up here at Cardona and Treble Cone," Hudson tells Newshub.

This time last week, Hudson was training with her dad and her dog in a makeshift set-up at home, but now she is back in her happy place.

"Much better now to be back on snow,” she says. “Obviously, it was a little stressful when we were in lockdown."

Her competitors in the Northern Hemisphere have been able to keep training - an obstacle the 25-year-old and her coach have had to manoeuvre around, as she chases her Olympic dream.

"In the New Zealand season, it's normally when we can get the jump on the Europeans,” says coach Johnny Rice. “We have great conditions down here and then to go into lockdown, it really sets you behind."

With the preparation work usually done by this time of year, winter athletes are about 200 individual runs behind and 10,000 turns.

Lost time means they're now playing catch-up, as Hudson prepares for the first World Cup meeting later next month in Austria.

To qualify for Beijing, she'll need to record two World Cup top-16 finishes and after a 12th place in the parallel slalom at this year's world champs, there's good reason to be confident. 

"She's gonna give it her best shot and you can never count her out," insists Rice.