AUSTRALIA'S premier snow sports destination, the Snowy Mountains, is rapidly gaining a reputation as the ultimate mountain biking destination.
Reports on visitor numbers over the summer period have shown a significant increase on previous years as new infrastructure and facilities are progressively opened. It is estimated that over $10 million is being invested in current capital works around the region with most projects scheduled for completion within the next two years.
The release of a major mapping assignment prior to the recent summer season opened up hundreds of kilometres of alpine, high plains and valley trails to mountain bikers across Cooma-Monaro, Snowy River, Tumbarumba and Tumut shires.
With the majority of capital expenditure being invested in projects around Thredbo, Lake Crackenback Resort and Jindabyne, the area's plans to become a national mountain biking hub are quickly taking shape.
Thredbo Alpine Village, which already boasts Australia's longest lift-accessed downhill mountain biking runs, is reporting that mountain biking visitor numbers have doubled in the last year alone.
Parent company, Kosciuszko Thredbo Pty Ltd, is investing about $4 million in developing a range of trails which will increase accessibility for riders of all ages and skill levels, including many adrenalin-charged runs. The project targets completion by the end of next summer.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is also investing heavily in the area with about $6 million directed into the 17-kilometre Thredbo Valley Trail.
The project will traverse the picturesque Thredbo River Valley linking Thredbo Alpine Village to Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa where significant investment is being made in trails, facilities and event development.
The Thredbo Valley Trail is slated for completion by December 2014. Multi-use trails are also under construction in the Geehi Flats and Tom Groggin areas.
With recent trail openings, the beautiful foreshore of Lake Jindabyne now presents over 10 kilometres of mountain biking experiences suitable for family riders and also those seeking more challenging diversions.
The project master plan is working towards a five-year timeline to link the resort town of Jindabyne to Lake Crackenback Resort, Thredbo Valley Trail and Thredbo Alpine Village.
A visionary project also aims to connect the alpine region, via Thredbo Valley Trail, to a 70-kilometre loop, circumnavigating Lake Jindabyne.
Chief executive of Tourism Snowy Mountains, Peter Sheppard, says the growth of both mountain biking and road cycling in the area is a result of an improvement in facilities, a stunning diversity of scenery and the offer of many unique challenges for riders.
"The region is already the leading snow destination in the southern hemisphere with the highest ski slopes in Australia. However, we also offer hundreds of kilometres of mapped mountain biking trails including some incredible down-hill runs, high altitude terrain and picturesque family rides around beautiful lakes, rivers and valleys. And nowhere else can you ride to the top of Australia," he said.
"Mountain biking and road cycling sit very well with the Snowy Mountains international reputation for premium snow sports as a non-winter alternative to skiing and snowboarding. The region offers incredible diversity and Australia's highest geography.
"With the growth in infrastructure and facilities, we're seeing positive economic impact for the region as gravity sport enthusiasts are increasingly flocking to the area throughout the entire year. Our vision is to firmly position Snowy Mountains as the leading mountain biking and road cycling destination in the country - just as it is with skiing."