A former junior world downhill mountain bike champ says Queenstown’s downhill bike park is among the best on the planet.
Queenstowner Scarlett Hagen, who won the junior world title in 2004, gave the Queenstown Bike Park a test drive on opening day last Saturday.
“The trails are right up there with the best in the world,” she says.
Hagen rates them as good or better than those in established mountain biking destinations of Whistler in Canada and 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.”
Hagen, now studying in Dunedin, was among 50 keen riders who celebrated the opening day, which heralds the first full-length season at the park.
It has been extended to run for seven months till April after a four-month trial early this year.
The park, which Skyline Enterprises pumped more than $100,000 into, offers the only gondola-accessed downhill mountain biking in the Southern Hemisphere.
Trails vary from fast bermed and groomed tracks to off-camber goat tracks, rock gardens, and a natural single track. Runs are graded green, blue and black for beginners, intermediates and advanced – just like ski runs.
Skyline chief engineer Ross Davidson, instrumental in setting up the season and designing the hooks attaching bikes to the company’s gondola cars, joined Hagen for the first ride of the day.
Getting the park to this stage has been a labour of love for many people, he says.
Davidson singled out Queenstown mountain bike enthusiast Nathan Greenwood, of Phat Lines, for building the tracks.
“I went to Whistler last year to see how our trails rated and am happy to honestly say we compared very highly.”
Ross believes the town has what it takes to become a major mountain biking destination.
“As people get behind mountain biking as a visitor activity, we’re going to start seeing bike racks everywhere,” he says.
Hagen adds: “We’ve got a world-class downhill with the bike park, as well as a whole range of riding around Queenstown.
“There are dirt jumps, cross-country trails and a whole network of scenic rides. And it all comes with all the magic that Queenstown already has.”
A season pass for the park, allowing for gondola access, costs $599. Otherwise, lift tickets cost $60 for a full day or $45 for a half day.
The park has been a collaboration between Skyline, Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Queenstown Mountain Biking Club and Cookie Time co-owner and biking enthusiast Michael Mayell.