On Friday 19 December 2014 The Nevis Range Mountain Experience in the Outdoor Capital of the UK, a project originally conceived to create employment in a recession hit Lochaber, celebrates twenty five years of success and innovation, which among other things has brought the world riding to its doorstep.
Conceived in the late 1970’s the Scottish ski resort opened its doors after a 10 year gestation process, battling for support, funding and sometimes even the snow it was built to harness, in reaching its official opening date on 19 December 1989.
Marian Austin, Managing Director of Nevis Range, said: “I have been here since day one, starting as a ski instructor and a I am delighted that Nevis Range is a popular year round attraction 25 years on.
“In winter we are a ski resort, in the summer we are one of Scotland’s leading mountain bike centres hosting world and national downhill and cross country mountain bike events. We have built a series of high wire adventure courses for all ages and our new Pinemarten café bar was opened recently. The gondola also offers spectacular views from the top of Aonach Mor to up to 130,000 visitors annually.”
In many ways still unique, offering the only mountain gondola in the UK with access to ski slopes and world class downhill and cross country mountain bike tracks, the original concept put forward by local businessman Ian Sykes (Spike), has proved not only to be right, but has achieved more than anyone could have imagined as outdoor activities in Scotland have grown and diversified massively around them.
In 2001 the extremely testing downhill mountain bike track was opened. It was created as a result of a growing demand from Scottish and UK mountain bikers and the realisation that the sport was growing rapidly both in Britain and overseas. Since 2002 Nevis Range has hosted the hugely popular UK round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup as a direct result of the infrastructure and top class tracks and trails. It was also the venue for the week long UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in 2007.
For many years the Nevis Range have worked in close collaboration with Forestry Commission Scotland to develop a series of natural and man made cross country trails in the Leanachan Forest. Together with the downhill and cross country tracks, accessed from the gondola, they have created one of Scotland’s leading mountain bike trail centres.
The story of the initial development of Nevis Range reads almost like the screenplay for a festive family film. A small, remote community with a never give up attitude comes together in the face of adversity, a group of close friends explore snowy hills in search of potential ski runs and local businesses raise a million pounds in less than a month to prove their resolve to potential funders only to have the funders pull out.
Despite the many setbacks the true power of determination, negotiation and the will to succeed, all of which, along with many of the original staff, are still at the core of Nevis Range today.
Ian Sykes, who was key in driving the original Nevis Range concept forward, became the first Managing Director and, although retired from this post, still has an active role on the Board of the company. He said: “It is really great to see Nevis Range still going 25 years on and doing more than we could ever have hoped for in 1989. I think the location of Nevis Range with easy access from the main roads and the decision to go for continental style gondolas have been major contributors to our success. I would really like to highlight the overwhelming commitment of all on the first committee, Council and Government agencies who did bring our dreams and those of the Lochaber community to life.
“The fact that we now have international downhill biking events on world class tracks, fantastic ski runs and a back country area; as well as offering easy access for climbers, walkers and paragliders, has made us even more of an all year round resort. I am delighted to see all of this in action and looking very promising for the future.”