Camilla Stoddart is a bit good

The results of the Scandinavian Photo Challenge are in and Camilla Stoddart took the top honours. That's right, New Zealand's very own Spoke cover shooter is not just a bit good, and not just world class, but among the very elite of photographers. Everyone at Spoke already knew that but this victory is a flag to wave. This victory rockets her status into the rarefied air of the top action sports shooter and I think it's fair to say that she will be getting much much busier from here on out.

Her show, which included Kiwi Steve Murphy, was a stunning show where every shot was a scorcher, the edit was well timed and balanced, and there was plenty of story and narrative in the slideshow. All judges were unanimous that hers was the top show but the difficult decision was for the other positions, particularly second and third places. In the end after much deliberation, numerous showings of the shows again, sweaty brows, and tense moments it was decided that Grant Robinson (Dirt Magazine's staff photographer) show was deserving of the second spot. Mattias Fredriksson took third place, Markus Gerber fourth and Kristoffer H. Kippernes fifth. Full write up, a couple of winning shots, a behind the scenes video and eventually all the shows will be available over the coming weeks. Then the images will be presented in their full glory in numerous magazines, including Spoke.

Aside from the big show the whole week in Åre has been one of the best weeks ever. There have been events other days, rides, reasons to sit up late and enjoy the 24 hour daylight. I have been fortunate enough to have landed myself in the company of some of the most genuinely nice people on earth. The Åre mountain bike club have adopted me and have been good enough to show me around the mountains and local custom. Big thanks to Mia, Markus, Klas, Lena, Rickhard, Nina, Teodor, Crill, Tobias, Ulrika, Jonas, Mattias Fredriksson among the many great people that make Åre a very special place, and I apologise if I've left anyone out. I haven't met a rotten Swede yet so that means New Zealanders have some very stiff competition for the title of best people on earth.

It's certainly been useful having some locals show me around as the bike park is huge and absolutely stacked with trails of all sorts of shapes, sizes and genres. This bike park really has got it all, including a couple of trails that have gone into my all time top ten trails. There is one chairlift that services many of the modern machine made trails, then another that takes you to the really flowy, rooty, fast trails that weave through beautiful forest and rip past waterfalls. But the real cherry on top is the big old tram which glides riders right up to the top where the trails are exposed, fast and sublimely rocky; absolute blasters that have you skimming over rocks with your breath held. Yesterday I took the biggest crash of my life when the rear mech sucked into the wheel, spitting me over the bars and scorpion grinding through hell rocks. Amazingly I got up unscathed rather than spend a very long bus mans holiday in a hospital bed. This place is so good that there must be angels watching over people here.

More on Åre coming soon in the magazine and on the web.