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Skyline chief Ross Davidson offloads the Zerode bike at the top of the gondola CREDIT: Southern Public Relations
QT Bikepark logo CREDIT: Southern Public Relations
The world-class Queenstown Bike Park opens to the public for its first full season this Saturday (17 September) – offering the only gondola-accessed downhill mountain biking in the southern hemisphere with over 30kms of purpose built tracks.
Dubbed the ‘Whistler of the Southern Hemisphere’ by some of the biggest names in the international biking fraternity, including the royal family of biking top pro riders Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton, the Queenstown Bike Park already has some famous fans after being used for offseason training during a very successful four-month trial earlier in the year.
The Queenstown Bike Park is part of the Ben Lomond Recreational Reserve, managed by the Queenstown Lakes District Council, and is built on a steep pine-covered hill with spectacular scenery. It is 790 vertical metres above sea level with 500 vertical metres of uplift from the bottom to the top of the Skyline-operated gondola. The trails vary from fast bermed and groomed trails to off-camber goat tracks, rock gardens, and natural single track. Runs are graded green, blue and black for beginners, intermediates and advanced, just like ski runs.
The park has been a labour of love for many people, with collaboration between the Queenstown District Council, the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club, Skyline and Cookie Time Limited co-owner and bike enthusiast Michael Mayell. Guest of honour at this Saturday’s opening is former junior world downhill mountain bike champion Scarlett Hagen. Hagen, who also has a raft of international and national titles to her name, will take the first run down along with Skyline chief engineer Ross Davidson – a passionate mountain biker who has been pushing the park project for 15 years.
Davidson has been instrumental in the park’s development, designing the hooks that allow bikes to be carried on the gondolas, and project managing the park’s trial season.
"During my teens and early twenties I was always involved in motocross and enduro riding and racing. I've been a keen recreational mountain biker ever since we moved to Queenstown 25 years ago,” 53-year-old Davidson says.
“Prior to Skyline opening to mountain biking, cross country riding was my thing, always with the emphasis on the downhill. And I still get great enjoyment out of kicking my brother, son and nephews’ butts on the downhill.”
In a unique sponsorship arrangement with Cookie Time Limited (CTL), every bike park lift ticket this season will come with a One Square Meal ‘bite’ bar. The official fuel of the park, One Square Meal is a breakthrough product that delivers one third of daily nutritional requirements.
CTL founder, Christchurch-based entrepreneur Michael Mayell , fell in love with the park during the trial opening earlier this year. He has also been helping with park launch plans, branding and a new website launching on Friday, www.queenstownbikepark.co.nz Mayell is the proud owner of the latest in mountain biking downhill technology, the Zerode frame. Designed in New Zealand and made in the US, the Zerode is the top of the line for downhill handling.
“The first time I arrived at the gondola base station having ridden from the top, the adrenaline was flowing. Then I got to go up in the gondola and take in those beautiful views. With sightseeing up and trail thrills all the way down, I was hooked,” Mayell says.
“And the One Square Meal deal will of course help keep everyone riding harder, for longer.”
Cycling is a huge growth industry in New Zealand, with 1.2 million New Zealanders riding bikes and more than 200,000 bikes imported each year. Cycling tourism is also on the rise, both domestically and internationally.
Ross Davidson says the four-month trial season at Skyline was a “huge” success, with 5,000 people completing more than 58,000 runs down the mountain.
“It shows that there’s a growing market for an outdoor activity in a stunning location that’s suitable for everyone from beginners to families and advanced or pro riders,” he says.
“It’s adding a new and exciting activity to the visitor mix as our figures already show that more than 40% of riders who used the park during the trial were international visitors. It’s expected up to 100,000 rides will be completed in the bike park’s first full season. “
The Atherton siblings, who have a raft of major international bike titles between them, think the Queenstown Bike Park has the potential to equal Canada’s mountain biking mecca, Whistler. While here earlier this year, the trio were filmed for their reality TV show, the Atherton project.
Twenty-nine-year-old Dan said the gondola runs were a huge drawcard. “It’s so easy just to be able to bang out some runs without having to pack the truck and go out for a big expedition.”
The Queenstown Bike Park officially opens Saturday 17 September at 10am for an eight month season to April 2012. Lift tickets cost $60 for a full day or $45 for a half day.