With a lot of hype surrounding the Skyline Rotorua Mountain Bike Gravity Park opening in New Zealand last Friday, it was a pleasure to grab a chance to ride the world’s first year-round, all-terrain gondola accessed trails and get a taste of what’s on offer.
The park’s 200 metre vertical rise gives riders the chance to smash out 30 to 40 runs a day. After riding a couple of trails you really get a feel for the network, which is a lush blend of digger built and hand built trails, providing welcome diversity.
The catalyst for the Skyline Gravity Park that has now become somewhat of an institution is the Sprint Warrior track. This advanced trail provides a plethora of features with machine built berms, step-downs, gap jumps, hand built trail, the list goes on.
It also leads into two other Grade 5 trails – Moss Piglet and Ten Fifty One. All of this fun wrapped up in a warp speed package of three to four minutes top to bottom. For those keen on the big stuff, the bottom section of Moss Piglet is a sight to behold. This section of trail, accessed from Sprint Warrior, takes you over two big tables before dropping into a gnarly, off-camber, raked-in line through the forest which is sure to please the purist. But to finish with a bang, this continues into the jumps track starting off with a ‘must jump’ step down, laden with boulders in the gut of it, which then leads into the The Surgeon’s Table – Empire of Dirt’s pièce de résistance resembling something out of an international slope-style course. It’s basically a sizeable step-up onto the table itself and then an equally sizeable step-down again. With an open face helmet and no armor in sight, I was more than happy leaving the Surgeon’s Table on the ‘to do’ list for the time being.
Moving on from this feature is a line of big tables which wrap up with a huge 10m lip to lip tabletop to pull out your sickest whip and taking riders out to the trail end. The jumps are well groomed and will be a huge hit.
There are a number of mixed level trails on the hill including another intermediate run called Hipster which flows seamlessly from chiselled berm to chiselled berm. The speed, flow and jumps that have been added for good measure will make you want to ride this over and over again. Everything links together well on Hipster and I had the fortune of following down one of the park patrollers, Zac, giving me the opportunity to maintain speed and hit the various jumps with the guidance of a park local, something that may have been slightly harder coming into the track blind. Finishing at the Sprint Warrior table top allows you to pull your sickest trick for the audience riding the gondola above. Hipster is bound to be a favourite and won’t disappoint.
Simple Jack is the park’s longest trail at 2.3km. The Grade 2 run traverses across the eastern side of Mt Ngongotaha, crossing the hillside three times taking in exceptional views over the city and Lake Rotorua before leading the rider round a mega-berm and dropping into the Redwood forest where things start getting a bit more hectic.
The corners start tightening up and superb use of the landscape means berms practically turn into wall rides if you hit them hot enough before spitting you out of the bush at the trail end, leaving you wanting more.
To mix it up on another run you can take the fork in the Redwoods to hit the Grade 3 Daywalker Trail which steps up to a more intermediate ride as the trail narrows and steepens, making for an awesome option to have more fun with. This ride left the crew feeling pumped and keen to hit the trails again soon. It also cemented that this is a world-class downhill mountain bike park that will further reinforce Rotorua and New Zealand as being an international mountain biking destination.
It’s clear that the New Zealand government’s $225,000 funding investment in the park through the Tourism Growth Partnership has allowed the creation of an extensive and world-class site.
You can lock in a half-day pass for $55 and there’s a range of options through to a full year pass at $899 ($799 earlybird till Sep 7) for unlimited gondola and downhill mountain bike trail access.
And for those heading to New Zealand that don’t have bikes, Multi Day Adventures own and operate a Mountain Bike Rotorua hire base at the bottom Skyline terminal, providing bike hire, repair and servicing, as well as guided tours of the trails.
Keep your eyes peeled on how this site continues to develop – I have a feeling that this park will be a game-changer in New Zealand mountain biking.www.skyline.co.nz/rotorua/Mountain_Biking/