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A love/fear relationship with biking.

Specialized Healthy catch-ups at Cardrona

One bright Sunday morning, 60 or so women from around Queenstown and Wanaka gathered in Cardrona’s clock tower square armed with mountain bikes. These women were of all ages and abilities; on bikes old and new, Cross-country, enduro and downhill alike. Some came with friends, others began the day as strangers, but the one thing we all had in common was a love of biking.

Or, in my case, a love/fear relationship with biking.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

Upon arrival, we were offered a pre-ride check with one of Outside Sports’ top notch bike mechanics, Bryn.

It’s always reassuring to know that your brakes will stop you, and your wheels aren’t about to fall off before you set out!

There was also an array of shiny new Specialized bikes on hand as demos for those in the market for a new bike, or just interested to see how a newer model compared with their own. Then our generous hosts, Cardrona, handed out complimentary lift passes to one and all. Legends!

Under the cloudless, Otago blue sky we were given the outline of the day and the option to join one of three groups, under the instruction of a collaboration of Cardrona bike instructors and Outside Sports guides: Group 1- aimed more towards beginners, were to focus on body position; Group 2- intermediate, on cornering; Group 3- advanced, on line selection and being generally extra rad.

I knew for sure my issue was with cornering, so I joined Group 2 led by Andrea, Ali and Tony (one of a couple of token male guides) and we started off down the meandering green-rated trail “morning glory” to the Whitestar express.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

I have skied Cardrona many times in winter, but this was my first experience riding it on a bike and I was impressed with the transition from a wide, straight ski slope to a flowing course of bermed corners and undulating straights, peppered with small rock features. This was also my first time riding a chairlift with a bike, and my visions of hugging it tightly across my lap for fear of dropping it on someone’s head were quickly assuaged with the realization that there are lovely lift operators on hand to hook the bikes onto the chair in front; all I had to do was sit down, enjoy the view, and have a nice chat with my new chairlift buddies. Top tip: it can get a bit chilly on the lifts so take an extra layer!

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

At the top, more lifties handed us back our bikes and we got down to business. Our coaches, who unbeknownst to us had carefully eyed our warm-up run, explained (with a rather comical reenactment) how we were currently steering the bike in a very awkward fashion. Instead, they expertly demonstrated how to move the bike under you, turn with your body, and look ahead round corners. After a short trial on the flat we moved on to an easy blue run “afternoon delight“- the perfect practice run as it gently snakes its way round corner after corner all the way back down to the base building. During this run, we were each afforded the opportunity to ride in front of one of the coaches for a section and receive individual feedback on our progress.

As we headed down to the bottom of the chairlift for the second time, I was far from alone in noticing an instant improvement in how cornering felt.

Empowered, we decided to take our new skills on to the harder blue runs.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

“Grasshopper” cuts a narrower trail through the tussocks. With its ruts, rocks, and rugged steeper sections I felt as though I was challenged to the highest point of my abilities. Where before I might have hopped off and walked a stretch I didn’t like the look of, there is something about the company of like-minded women of a similar ability that encouraged me to keep hanging on to my bike for dear life, brakes screaming, scraping my bottom on my back tyre, and I rode that whole trail like a boss. Well, except for a tiny moment where Ali yelled “keep left” at me, which my brain interpreted as,

“Stop! You’re going to die!”

With ear-to-ear smiles and adrenaline coursing through our veins, we decided to stop for lunch. In accordance with the “healthy” part of Healthy Catch Ups, Cardrona had put on a special dish of falafels on a bed of a variety of salads with a juice. While I don’t normally order vegetarian meals on purpose, it was absolutely delicious and fueled us for the afternoon of riding ahead.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

The afternoon session was a more informal affair, with the option to carry on with the instructors or go off with some friends. I chose to stick with my group, and as we looked back down on Grasshopper from the chairlift we wondered where the tricky rocks and ruts were now that had so troubled us before. The steeps looked like nothing from a birds eye view. We were much braver going in to it this time, and cheered on as others who had walked parts the first time now rode the whole thing. Andrea showed us around a nice selection of challenging blue runs that afternoon, stopping occasionally to tell us what the next stretch held in store for us, or sometimes not telling us and just enjoying watching us ride over things we never expected we would manage.

Many went on to finish the day with the 7km ride down the grassy mountainside all the way to the Cardrona Hotel in the valley below, but after a fantastic day of riding I was happy to enjoy a leisurely drive down the winding gravel road.

I went up the mountain that day with the aim of having a fun bike ride. I came down encouraged, emboldened, and equipped with new skills which I can’t wait to try out on those tricky sections where I’ve got off and walked before on my usual rides, and with some new friends to ride them with too.

Specialized Healthy Catch Ups Outside Sports NZ

Specialized Healthy Catch ups take place on the last Sunday of each month at different locations. Follow the facebook page: www.facebook.com/HealthyCatchUps, and head into Outside Sports for more info.

See you at the next one!

By Christy Brennan

#HealthyCatchUps #WhereAdventuresBegin

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Meet Sponsored Athlete Olly Thomas

Outside Sports Sponsored Athlete

Meet Olly Thomas

Outside Sports welcomed Olly to the team in 2014 when he was only 11 years old. Born and bred in Wanaka, NZ. Olly has had the privilege of spending his skiing days at Cardrona Alpine Resort and becoming a free skier in their world famous terrain park.

Olly Thomas Outside Sports Athlete Free Skiier

Olly at Cardrona Alpine Resort, NZ.

Last winter Olly perfected a back flip, 360, 540, various rail tricks and big jumps. 

Already, a month into the 2015 winter season, Olly has introduced a 720 into the mix and is working hard to bring in even more complex tricks throughout the season.

A competitive Free Skier, Olly has achieved:

  • 2nd in The Chill Series Junior Big Mountain, Craigieburn
  • 3rd in the Junior Nationals Big Mountain Competition held at Cardrona Alpine Resort, Wanaka

Olly Thomas Outside Sports Athlete Free Skier

Olly and Luca at Cardrona Alpine Resort, NZ.

For 2015 Olly aims to achieve more podium places and is focussing on this Year’s New Zealand Junior Nationals. His future aim is to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Olly wears Dalbello Ski boots.

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Cardrona Bike Park and Mega Avalanche 2015, NZ.

Cardrona Bike Park, Wanaka NZ is re-opening for Easter!

Cardrona Bike Park will be open from April 4th-19th, which will be the last opportunity to ride at Cardrona, Wanaka before the winter season’s opening day on June 13th 2015. The Cardrona Bike Park will be open daily from 10am-4pm with the Whitestar chairlift operating for trail access to some cool new trails:

•         Beginners trail along skyline.

•         New intermediate trail below oxygen thief.

•         Descent from resort base to helicopter flat.

 Cardrona NZ Mega Avalanche Outside Sports NZ

Cardrona Mega Avalanche scheduled for April 19!

•         1300 metre of vert!

•         14km Course!

•         5K worth of cash and spot prizes!

Cardrona NZ and Highlands Motorsport Park are collaborating to bring mountain bike racing into the motorsport arena of the Race to the Sky event. On the last day of the Cardrona bike park season, Sunday April 19th 2015, for the first time Cardrona will host The Cardrona Mega Avalanche- presented by Outside Sports.

True to Mega Avalanche form, the race starts with a mass sprint to get to the front of the pack before entering the narrower sections of the course. The course is a mix of twisty single tracks, steep descents and narrow technical switchbacks. The spectacular finish line in Cardrona Village sees riders drop off a ramp into the awards arena where five thousand dollars worth of cash and spot prizes will be awarded.

Now that’s something to be excited about! The end of summer isn’t all too bad.

Enter Here.

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New Zealand National DH Round 1, Cardrona Bike Park NZ.

New Zealand National DH Round 1, Cardrona Bike Park NZ.

Cardrona Bike Park opened for the first time this summer 2014/15 and hosted the New Zealand National World Cup Downhill race series Round 1 on its last opening weekend. Keeping downhill racing action alive, Scotland's Greg Williamson took the winning title from the local start list. Katy Kurd earned a women's Elite victory.

 Cardrona Bike Park, Outside Sports, NZ

Photo: Sven Martin

The good news is... due to popular demand Cardrona will officially RE-OPEN the Cardrona Bike Park NZ Easter Saturday (April 4th) until the 19th.

Cardrona are developing several new trails including an even easier beginner run to the Dirtstar Chair which will be great for beginners and kids. Cardrona boost that the Bike Park will go out in style with the running of their first MEGA AVALANCHE on the 19th in conjunction with the Race to the Sky motor-race event across the valley, so watch this space!

Book Specialized bike rentals from Outside Sports and check out the trails yourself.

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Cardrona Valley’s New Bike Park

Cardrona Valley’s New Bike Park

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Yesterday’s winds didn’t deter a bunch of local freeride mountain bikers from checking out the new downhill jump park that has been constructed in the Cardrona Valley.

The nearly-finished bike park, consisting of over 30 jumps, all varying in size, has been built somewhat under the radar over the past few months. Yesterday was the first real “test” day, even though it wasn’t open to the public.

With Queenstown pro riders (Kelly McGarry, Conor Macfarlane and others) in attendance, plus a select few Wanaka locals, the freshly shaped track was well ridden in. The gusty winds meant riders had to hold back a little on the big jumps, or just pick their moments perfectly.

One of the two-man building team, Jamie Thompson, said: “The track is designed to minimise braking and pedaling, which allows riders to flow from one jump to the next with out having to change speed constantly. This means less braking bumps too.”

“Local riders have been waiting for a solid jump line for ages in this area. We’re filling that gap. There’s nothing else like this in Queenstown or Wanaka.” – said Jamie.

Queenstown pro rider Kelly McGarry - cardrona valley bike park

Queenstown pro rider Kelly McGarry finding gap in the wind

Wanaka local rider Rusty getting it done on the wall ride feature at the top

Wanaka local rider Rusty getting it done on the wall ride feature at the top

The jumps varying in size from 5-30 feet and are well-built with flow and safety in mind. Almost all the jumps on the track are roll-able, with options to go bigger and bigger as your confidence increases. Most of the jumps are built as step-ups, so the consequences of coming up short are minimal, and many of them have a hip-like option to jump into the bank on the side. The only two features that require full commitment are the ‘road gaps’, but it is possible to ride around both of these.

The track begins on the Snow Farm / Proving Grounds access road and finishes in the valley bottom. With no signage as yet, it’s hard to spot the entrance and the exit is even more discreet. Those keen to pop up and take a look will get the best view of the track from the 3km mark on the access road. But don’t be tempted to take any sneaky laps just yet, it’s still lambing season and the track has multiple gates across it, all under lock and key.

cardrona valley bike park top section

The top section of the track

cardrona valley bike park bottom section

The bottom section, from afar

The man behind the plan is Scott Jones, who is a relation by marriage to the well-known Lee Family. Scott is aiming to have the park ready and open to the public within the next few weeks and has plans to cater to both groups and individuals.

They plan to offer a pay-per-person shuttle service on weekends and possibly on a Wednesday evening, then a half day hire option for groups. The expected rates will be $300 for self-shuttle or $400 with the shuttle. Portaloos and a BBQ will be available at the bottom of the track.

Watch out for their Facebook page coming real soon!

cardrona valley bike park drop in

All the test riders waiting to drop in

Queenstown Bike Taxis at cardrona valley bike park

The good fellas from Queenstown Bike Taxis helping out with shuttles

riders at ardrona valley bike park

Riders looking pretty happy with the shape of features

cardrona valley bike park

BBQs at the bottom

Check out our bike rentals in Queenstown and Wanaka. Our local expert bike mechanics can also book you on the Queenstown Bike Taxi or provide some advice on local trails in the area.

Reference: 360queenstown-wanaka

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