Bike bust fury

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Queenstown’s moun­t­ain biking fraternity are furious with Coronet Peak Ski Area for pulling the pin on their summer season.

Coronet Peak Ski Area won’t run its quad chairlift for mountain bikers during the coming off-season, saying it wants to concentrate on its core winter activities.

The shock move has attracted a tirade of criticism from the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club and left a downhill race organiser accusing ski bosses of stiffing him on commitments.

“[The decision] is very disappointing,” fumes Queens­town Mountain Bike Club spokesman Carey Vivian.
“The trails at Coronet Peak are world-class and attracted some of the world’s best mountain bikers.

“I don’t think NZSki ever realised the full potential of mountain biking at Coronet.”

Coronet’s owner NZSki has operated its bike park for the last four summers, selling day and season passes plus hosting major events while also continuing to develop more tracks.

Says Vivian: “Queenstown could have become the southern hemisphere version of Whistler [in Canada] where mountain biking in summer is busier than skiing is in winter.

“If they had invested in a range of trails to suit all abilities they would have got the numbers to make it economically sustainable.”

Mountain bike tourism operator Greg McIntyre, organiser of the annual Brake Burner endurance race, is shocked he’s lost his venue.

“We’ve got 350 people coming from all over the country [for the February 6 event], entries are about one week from going live.”

He feels NZSki has welshed on a long-term commitment it made to the park a year ago in exchange for support from the local mountain biking community.

NZSki marketing boss David Ovendale says it’s “debatable” whether the bike park had “long-term commercial legs”.

“In its four years it was only profitable for one.”

It was a “distraction” from NZSki’s core role as a snowsports operator and also reduced the life of its main lift, he says.

“Ongoing capital projects can’t be forced to tiptoe around a mountain biking operation.”

Back in November, 2007, Ovendale was more optimistic, telling Mountain Scene: “I can see no reason why it couldn’t become the southern hemisphere’s leading downhill cross-country mountain bike field, like Whistler.”