Jimmy Carling is the man with his finger on the Queenstown pulse. Here’s what’s been going down recently in New Zealand.
The month of February… Here already eh? If the expression “time flies when you’re having fun” is to be true, then we certainly are having a jolly good time. It’s amusing how far away winter seems, yet at the same time, we are constantly being reminded that the end of the warmest months isn’t as far away as we would like to think. Fruit and veg are ripening, sheep are all sheared and the grass on the hills is looking very dry. This is the final official month of summer, but the party is far from over. Some would say things are just getting started.
The first week of the Gondola opening has been a real eye opener. I spoke last week about there being an “air of change” about the town. Well I believe that “air of change” has now properly become a bloody great big shift. To put it in perspective, a hill that would be lucky to see a dozen runs in a weekend is now seeing up to 17/18 runs in some cases, a day, by one person. Personally I’m a fan of quality over quantity, not sure what I’d achieve on my 18th run that I didn’t achieve on my 17th, but that’s just me, and who the fuck am I to say how you can and can’t ride. The erosion on the trails within the first 7 days has been more than I’ve witnessed in the whole of the two years that I have lived here, braking bumps and deep ruts are scattered throughout, although this was completely expected. 14 or so years of locals pushing hard for the gondola to be opened to bikes is more than enough reason to be celebrative. Also… everyone is crashing. I’ve crashed twice and have grazes that stop me spooning the missus every night! Everyone you chat to, “oh I crashed yesterday, so and so crashed, matey boy’s in hospital”. We all know how fast we can ride up there, but normally our blood is pumping from the pedal up. Now, however, you get out of a warm gondola; have a chat, head off charging into your favourite trails at the same speed that you always have, except you’re a bit too relaxed and before you know it you’re flat on your arse picking stones out of your skin. Even T Man tweaked his knee in a crash. However, with all this talk of change and the new discoveries that accompany it, we must remember, as T Man rightly pointed out – change is good, as long as it’s well directed and properly managed, and that includes us as riders getting used to the new setup. On the whole, people are buzzing from their newfound gondola access.
But the one “new” thing that has surprised a few of us is the emergence of big cheat lines on the trails. I can understand alternative routes around technical or steep areas for those less abled, but some of them are so ludicrous that it’s actually quite funny, for a moment, then it just becomes really quite sad. The new perimeter track, named “Hammy’s” is colour coded green as it is an EASY trail. It’s smooth, it’s wide and it’s mellow. In a number of places, little chicanes or slight corners have seen straight lines be built in right beside them. It would seem some people just want to go straight, and want to go fast, and rather than learn how to ride a trail, would rather just cut a straight line wherever there is a turn or a braking point. In some places, mainly easy switchbacks, people have just been riding over the tops of berms to get a more straight line down the hill. Again, if this is your style, fair enough. But how are you ever gonna progress? Off camber roots? You can forget about ever conquering them. The measure of a rider’s success is in their progression, not in their ability to modify trails around their lack of skill. I shall quote the League of Gentleman motto – “Cheaters cheat themselves”.
Last weekend also saw a very casual jam take place down at Gorge Road. There’s a new hip line in there too which looks great and adds well to the slightly more linear fashion of the other sets. The Beer and Lollies Jam had all kinds of styles in the mix as usual, so I popped down to have a beer (and a lolly) and take some photos in bad light with a small flash. They mostly turned out crap. But some less than others.
One of the styles present at the Beer and Lolly Jam was that of Tom Hey. If you’re not familiar with him, you’re probably familiar with some of his handy work… He is the right-hand man to the one and only John Cowan. Don’t believe me? Crankworx Colorado last year, Cowan broke himself before the big course build… So who does he call? You guessed it. To be flown from NZ to Colorado just for your dirt farming skills is not something every spade-wielding dirt jump nut can shout about. Tom is an extremely talented all rounder. He, like many in QT, chooses not to discriminate between disciplines and instead embraces them all as simple two wheeled fun. He is also an incredibly hard worker, a lot of that work being behind the scenes. And he has a boat. A very funny boat. I caught up with him and racked his brains.
Thomas ‘Huck Man”Hey
Earns a crust how?
Guiding lucky punters down some of our delicious trails with Vertigo Bikes, either on the Gondola hill, down Skippers canyon singletrack or on our Heli bike behind the remarkables.
Some building of slopestyle courses and hucks to flat occasionally too
Too many, Currently 2 pieces of a Trek session 88, a Kona Cowan ds(bass), reign x1(for the Mrs) and a 1st run black market mob for mud humping.
Oh and a 08 Suzuki RMZ 250 for making noise and spraying ginger Si with cow shit
Been in Queenstown for how long?
3.5 summers 1 winter.
What makes the place special to you?
Looking out of the window now i see what every tourist will take a picture of and show their friends at home to make them jealous. And that’s only the town centre. Us locals get to enjoy the best scenery in the world every day.
Not only that, after living in whistler for 5 summers it’s hard to beat. Whilst the riding may be better there living is a lot more diverse here, I found in Whis all i did was ride, here we go canyoning, fishing, boating, building, bbq-ing as a way of life, grow moustaches, ride moto, jimmy goes hiking and all this can be done in one day. The riding is more diverse too, lots more hucking here but not enough singletrack which will hopefully change soon…
Miss the crew in whistler but we got a big family here and i know most of the Whis crew will make it here one day.
My Mrs Jo makes this place pretty special too… (every night in my liiife….)
We all know that you ride everything, but do you have a favourite discipline?
Just depends on the mood but i am a sucker for flowing singletrack with turns to smash. The Chilcotins is still the best place i have ridden.
A real good set off technical trails with big berms and hips is pretty similar too, just need some land…
You’re a bit of a Whistler local too? How did you end up working alongside Cowan?
Me and one of the o.g crew mart were working on trail crew in the bike park and cowman john was building some jumps up top, his wife steph had to have her appendix out so Cowan had to go with her, Whistler wanted the jumps finished so me and mart started doing it, we both grew up building trails so had definitely learnt the hard way. Halfway through john came back and we finished them together. He found it a relief to have people who worked hard and knew what they were doing so when we mentioned doing a west coast US road trip he said he’d pay us to build jumps for interbike in Vegas and in his yard for his jam.
He works like a son of a bitch and expects you too so we nicknamed working with him ‘Cowschwitz’. Got a lot to thank JC for, he got me paid to build jumps all over the world and not sure what I’d be doing now if i hadn’t got that break.
What are your thoughts on the opening of the gondola and the package that has been presented this year?
It’s awesome that it’s opened, i have spent a lot of time walking around that hill trying to build XXC trails but all the time i knew it was a bike park. We were building an uphill up there when they announced they would open the lift so it was a bit bittersweet as we wasted 3 months digging. It’s awesome for the community though and awesome for QT. I just hope they don’t rip people off because they have a niche. 475 for a season pass is ok…if you have patrol and trail crew. It’s pretty bad they are not supplying that but I’m sure it’ll come in the long run.
Do you think the Ben Lomond Forest has the ability to tolerate such high volumes of riders in the long run?
Yes, if it’s built properly and there are enough options. Skyline don’t know too much about biking yet and i think they will learn by their mistakes as they already are.
Can you tell us anything about some of the projects you’re working on at the moment? And where did the ideas come from?
I’m on a mission to build lots of singletrack in the ridiculously beautiful backcountry here. It’s the one thing missing in QT, we have short XC, jumps, hucks and now a bike park but the big singletrack rides don’t really exist. Just putting together a proposal to get permission at the mo, so will see where it goes from there, hoping to get picks in the ground this winter.
There are lots lots of great sections about, i just want to connect them up with mega flowy stuff to make you jizz in your shammy(yours Jimmy, I don’t wear lycra)
Where do you see the local scene in ten years’ time, and/or where would you like to see it?
Hopefully like it is now, great group of locals with lots of visitors to ride with in the summer. Obviously I’d like to see my backcountry trails come to fruition so hopefully a lot more of that.
Hopefully Skyline will still be going too and will have taken responsibility of what they are making cash off. Maybe another lift higher up….
How do you keep yourself amused come winter?
Last winter was my first for about 6 years so it was good to relax and have darkness as an excuse to stay in and chill.
The days are short but there is still fun to be had, snowboarded a bit but kept waiting for epic powder days which didn’t come to often so probably rode my bike and moto more. Moto is best in the winter as there is no dust and you can where more than a t-shirt to ride in.
Tell us about this coughing, spluttering, leaking old girl you often have in tow behind you. No not Jo… The Old Shitter:
Jealousy is an evil emotion Jimmy. Mine and Foz’s amazing boat actually going to be renamed ‘invite only’ as it has an invite list and black list depending on how favourable your words were. This last question just put you back on the black list.
You sticking around the QT massive for a while?
Yeah boy! Going for my residency in June/July and see how it goes…
Any shout outs?
Hmmmm…..just you…thanks for last night….
You are most welcome Huckman Hey. This week… League of Gentleman Chainless V Line! Be there! Thursday! LoG Facebook page for details.