Cycle the trails
Third generations of skiing families now zip down the slopes of Ruapehu. They sustain the businesses that sell equipment and house, feed and water the skiers at the end of a day on the slopes. Ohakune, where many head, has one supermarket, one pharmacy, one bank and 52 bars. “We’re a party town with a ski problem,” says Ben Wiggins, who owns TCB Ski, Board & Bike and was born and raised in Ohakune. But snow can be a fickle friend and it’s the new kid on the block that’s getting locals pumped. Five years ago, when the snow people left town in October and businesses started their seasonal layoffs, some smart guys had an idea. “What if,” they mused over an ale or two, “skis and boards are good but bikes are better?” Ben Wiggins was a leader of the pack. He has always been as keen on off-road cycling as skiing. Most of the trails he rode as a teenager were “gnarly, but very pretty”. He went to a few businesses, talked about his ideas, stirred up some enthusiasm. DOC and voluntary groups became involved, trails were cleared, tourist promotions launched and Prime Minister John Key conveniently kicked in with cash for a national cycleway.
Cycling has become the new boom around the base of Mt Ruapehu. This summer season was busier than winter and over summer and spring there were more bike racks than ski racks in town on Friday nights. The business is growing by 300-600 per cent a year. Mike Smith, manager of Visit Ruapehu, believes cycling will overtake skiing within five years. There are trails that test the toughest calf muscles and others suitable for trainer wheels. So, courtesy of trail-blazer Ben Wiggins and others, here are a few of the best.
The Old Coach Road.
Bridge to Nowhere, part of Fishers Track.