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A group of Oamaru teenagers line up for the gondola as the Queenstown Bike Park opens for the season CREDIT: Southern Public Relations
Scarlett and Ross ride the All Black gondola to the top of the Queensotwn Bike Park CREDIT: Southern Public Relations
Ross (front) and Scarlett on the trail CREDIT: Southern Public Relations
Ross Davidson, Scarlett Hagen and Michael Mayell amped to hit the trails CREDIT: Southern Public Relations
Around 50 keen mountain bikers including guest of honour former junior world downhill mountain bike champion Scarlett Hagen, a group of teenagers from Youth Town Oamaru and several members of the Queenstown mountain bike club celebrated the opening of the first ever full season for Queenstown Bike Park today (Saturday, 17 September).
Taking to the trails with infectious enthusiasm, downhill mountain bikers of all levels rode down – fast – before taking the gondola back up the hill to do it all again.
The world class bike park offers the only gondola-accessed downhill mountain biking in the southern hemisphere and features over 30 kilometres of purpose built tracks. Dubbed the ‘Whistler of the Southern Hemisphere’ by some of the biggest names in the international biking fraternity, the bike park has some famous fans including the, including the royal family of biking top pro riders Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton family after opening for a four-month trial season earlier this year.
Scarlett Hagen, who is now studying in Dunedin, says the trails in the Queenstown Bike Park are “right up there with the best in the world.”
“These trails are as good if not better than those in Whistler or Morzine in France. There are trails for all abilities and the environment and scenery is just stunning. The beginner track is super easy while the black runs are seriously challenging.”
Setting up for the first run of the day, she admits to a few nerves. “I am really excited to be riding downhill for the first time since the trial finished in May.”
Widely acknowledged for his contribution to the establishment of the Bike Park, Skyline Chief Engineer Ross Davidson was delighted to welcome the opening contingent of riders.
“I’ve been a recreational rider who loves the descent for many years. Local mountain bikers have been pushing me to get it happening up here – we now have a really simple system for loading bikes, the support of the Skyline Board of Directors and management and a fantastic set of trails.
“It’s been a labour of love for many people. The tracks are just fantastic thanks to Nathan Greenwood of Phat Lines. I went to Whistler last year to see how our trails rated and am happy to honestly say we compared very highly.”
Ross believes that given the support of the town, which he says is building nicely, Queenstown has what it takes to become a major mountain biking destination.
“As people get behind mountainbiking as a visitor activity, we’re going to start seeing bike racks everywhere,” he says.
Supporting the park with a unique sponsorship is Cookie Time Limited (CTL) which provides a One Square Meal ‘bite’ bar with every bike park lift ticket sold. 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 since been an enthusiastic supporter helping with park launch plans, branding and a new website 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
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. All those connected with the bike park see a strong future for Queenstown as a biking destination.
“We’ve got a world class downhill with the bike park, as well as a whole range of riding around Queenstown,” says Scarlet Hagen. “There are dirt jumps, x-country trails and a whole network of scenic rides. And it all comes with all the magic that Queenstown already has.”
The Queenstown Bike Park is open for an eight month season that finishes in April 2012. Lift tickets cost $60 for a full day or $45 for a half day.