Gondola trips for mountain bikers just months away

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Queenstown mountain bikers will get a real lift this summer – long-awaited gondola access to Bob’s Peak is coming. 

Rather than facing a gruelling uphill climb to ride trails, a relaxing cable car trip to the top is just two months off. 

Tourism heavyweight Skyline Enterprises hopes to be carting bikes on its Bob’s Peak cableway after the Christmas holidays. 

But Skyline boss Jeff Staniland says there are plenty of changes to be made before the January to April trial period starts. 

To make the gondola bike-compatible, Skyline is installing a separate ticketing window at the base building to allow bikers to enter at the opposite side to regular punters. An exit door and ramp is also being built at the top. 

Bikes will be loaded by riders on to specially-made hooks on the outside of designated cabins, which will accommodate two people. 

Staniland says they’re still unsure how many of the 36 cabins in circulation will cart bikes, though rubber mats will prevent muddy punters dirtying the cabins. 

It’s likely the gondola will be off-limits to riders for half-hour stints at peak dining times – during the lunchtime rush and at about 5.30pm – and they might not be able to ride on public holidays, Staniland says. 

Sanctioning bikes on the gondola is a complete about-face for Skyline, which is shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for the modifications. 

Staniland says: “If we don’t try, then we’re never going to know.” 

However, once bikers get off the cable cars and head off into the forest, Staniland says it’s no longer Skyline’s domain. 

Staniland: “Queenstown Lakes District Council will manage the forest and what goes on amongst it – and then other parties have some input.” 

Exactly “who’s doing what” is still being nutted out, Staniland says. 

Under an agreement with QLDC, Skyline is building a new six kilometre beginner level perimeter track. 

“We thought it would be a good idea to have a perimeter track for people to ride around without risking life and limb,” Staniland says. 

“And of course if you’ve got a trail there, it needs to be maintained.” 

Staniland says Skyline is only responsible for keeping that one track up to scratch and to keep a consistently high standard on the main trails in the Ben Lomond Reserve, business sponsorship of separate tracks is being pushed. 

The details will be discussed at a forest user group meeting being held next Wednesday, followed by an interested parties’ meeting at Skyline on November 9 to update locals on what’s happening on the hill. 

Then, “hopefully they can book their holidays and start saving for their seasons pass”, Staniland adds.