A tourism heavyweight is considering opening up its Queenstown gondola for mountain bikers – a major turnaround.
Skyline Enterprises boss Jeff Staniland says the company’s looking at trialling access this summer to its Bob’s Peak cableway if a feasibility study stacks up.
The only gondola access allowed now is during mornings till 11am for clients of mountain bike company Vertigo – their bikes go up on a service cart.
Staniland: “We’re always getting people asking and we thought it was time to relook at it.”
There’s a “reasonable chance” Skyline will confirm a trial, starting October, after an eight-week feasibility study, Staniland says.
Providing mountain bike access would cost a few hundred thousand dollars, he estimates.
Staniland says the main challenge will be getting mountain bikes onto gondolas and providing alternative bottom and top terminal access.
“They can’t go through the ordinary [bottom terminal] queue.”
It’s likely the bikes will be clipped onto gondolas.
“We can’t put them in the gondolas or hang them underneath. If you’ve got a big queue of diners wanting to get on, a big number of mountain bikers, how do you manage the two?”
It might be that mountain bikers couldn’t ride on busy public holidays like New Years’ Day, he says.
Rainy days, because of the mud that bikes would drag through, might also be off-limits. Staniland says the other issue is pricing.
“It would be interesting to know what the real demand’s like. A lot of those mountain bikers have very little money but they’ll have a $10,000 downhill bike.”
Any arrangement is likely to involve day, multi-day and season passes.
Staniland’s comments are a turnaround from last September when then Skyline boss Ken Matthews – now company chairman – told Mountain Scene: “Mountain bikers and bikes don’t make a good mix for our other business, our other visitors.
“We’re not set up to handle it in volume and we’ve maintained that view for quite some years and will continue to do so.”
‘It’ll be huge for town’
Vertigo owner Tim Ceci (left) says summer mountain biking would join bungy, jetboating and rafting as Queenstown’s “big activities” if gondola access gets the green light.
“It’s going to be huge for the town.”
Bob’s Peak has six official downhill trails and a dozen unofficial ones, but there’d need to be more track development to cater for less extreme riders, Ceci says.
“The new face of town will be a full face in goggles.”
NZSki closed down a summer mountain bike operation on Coronet Peak last summer, citing lack of commercial viability and disruption to pre-winter capital works.
NZSki charged $249 for a two-month adult pass during the 2008/2009 summer.