Public access to the world cup course and the highly technical Top Chief trails makes this a top spot for experts. The addition of the uplifted blue trail offers the only true alpine style trail for beginners in the UK.
Although there is everything catered for here from XC riding to full on DH all the trails are developed and manmade. Natural trails are to be found but they are a short drive from the resort.
We use a five star rating system to designate trails in our resort guides. Here are our descriptions of what each means and who it is for.
How we define that trail
Trails that are generally outside of designated riding areas and are primarily un marked and require the rider to use their navigation skills. You will need a map for these and expect them to be on mixed use trails, shared with walkers and other trail groups.
These are trails that will be way-marked and designated as mountain bike trails, typically found within managed forest areas. You should not need maps to ride these trails and expect as many climbs as descents. The trails will usually be designated as easy, intermediate and expert.
Park trails are usually DH trails. Often with uplifts via chairlifts, gondolas or vehicle shuttles. These trails will mostly be pay to play trails and are typical in alpine resorts and resorts in places like BC. Expect trails rated from easy to expert, well marked and often with jump lines and other technical DH features. A full face helmet is often mandatory.
Better known as Ben Nevis, although it’s not technically on the UK’s highest mountain, racers and riders have been coming here for decades. Recently it’s had some serious levels of development in both trails and facilities.
The Nevis Range, or more commonly known as just Fort William actually sits on the side of Aonach Mor, which is part of the Ben Nevis range of mountains. Aonach Mor is the 8th highest mountain the UK. The resort is located on a purpose built site just 4 miles out of the the Town of Fort William. It is known as being the only gondola uplift resort in the UK. Nearby Glencoe Mountain Resort has a chairlift, but that’s currently it as far as none vehicular uplifts go in the UK.
The onsite accommodation has been sustainably built using local materials and even recycled wood and materials from the mountainside but the largest energy sucker, the gondola itself is entirely powered by Nevis Range Hydro located on the Allt Choille-rais Burn on a subsidiary ridge of Aonach Mor.
In the winter it is a ski resort and in the summer the mountain bikers come.
The Nevis Range has been host to world class mountain bike DH events going back almost 3 decades and the famous World Cup DH track is rated as one of the best on the circuit by pro riders themselves.
The base of the resort sits less than 50m above sea level but the Gondola spits riders out at 650m offering up one of the longest continuous DH rides in the British Isles.
The World Cup course is open to the public although it is truly black – Double diamond black in fact. There’s only one part of the course that is not open to the general public for good reason – the massive road gap. For mere mortals this is closed off and riders need to pick their way around it. But those who like to get airborne still have a couple of stream gaps and the famous Motorway Section in the final run in to the finish arena. Beware, there is plenty to catch out even the most experienced of riders on this track.
Which brings us neatly to the other black trail on the mountain, Top Chief. While still a trail reserved for the expert rider it is a little more manageable than the full on adrenalin run of the WC track…
Blue Doon Trail
This uplifted blue trail was opened in 2022 and is possibly the longest continuous blue graded trail in the UK at 5km. It’s accessed by riding right once off the gondola, past the DH start hut for about 200m. The top section is wide and open and some of the corners have limited berms so require an element of rider caution if you let the brakes off. The surface is hardcore but not smooth, which should be expected a) in the Highlands and b) at this altitude. Quite a few experienced riders have expressed their caution and concern over the construction of the top section although it needs to be considered that this trail is intended for novice riders who keep speed in check. That said, after a few familiarisation runs even experienced riders can extract a good amount of flow and buzz from the top half of the trail. It’s also worth pointing out that the upper sections have had some work down in early 2023 to shore up some of the corners.
The lower section of the Blue trail is a completely different story. The trail narrows as it enters the trees and the corners are built for speed and offer a lot of support for beginners and experts alike.
Top Chief Trail
This originally started as a tough red trail from the gondola station but has been developed in the last few years to encompass more technical, rocky and steep sections that wind their way down the left side of the mountain (From the POV of standing at the upper gondola station). As such it’s now graded black and it most definitely is. However, good intermediates should be fine on this excellent techy trail as there are no precipitous jumps and most sections can be walked if needed. That said the upper woodwork sections can be somewhat intimidating and there are places with significant exposure.
On the lower section of the mountain you will find a good selection of trails that are served by a number of climbing routes from the main car park and gondola station. These are rated from green to black and are excellent trails that flow well and are well maintained by the trail crew. It’s entirely the case that you could spend a whole day riding these trails and have more fun than you would on the uplifted options. These trails are ‘sessionable’ in that the climb back to the start of the descents takes less than 30 minutes for an average rider. There is also a skills area and pump track located close to the gondola station with trails suitable for beginners.
Staying on site has, until recently, been something only those with camper vans could entertain. In April of 2023 the resort opened its first onsite hotel with additional catering and retail units. The hotel is claimed to have been built from mostly onsite materials, reclaiming much of the wood from the mountain side. This level of sustainability and environmental concern has not gone unnoticed.
The hotel hosts 20 rooms – mostly doubles but with a handful of family rooms. The decor can be described as basic but that doesn’t really paint the full picture. Basic, maybe but modern, clean and with tasteful highlights, like the bed heads made from recycled wood from the mountain. All the sockets have USB connections, which is an essential these days. Each room has a modern smart TV and you can login to your own accounts like Netflix if you really want to.
Downstairs and in the covered courtyard are a few retail units. There’s the Commencal branded bike shop for spares and bike essentials and next door is a restaurant in addition to the long standing Pine Martin cafe that has been a mainstay of the resort for decades. The restaurant offers a full bar and during our visit pizza was the only item on the menu. Why only pizza? At the time of opening there were no actual kitchen facilities open in the restaurant and the pizza offerings came via a pizza trailer operating around the back of the hotel. However, we were assured by the staff that within months there would be a fully operational kitchen offering a full menu.
During the day the Pine Martin cafe offers everything from breakfast rolls to plated up meals.
The town of Fort William offers up a range of accommodation from small B&Bs to a Premier Inn nestled betwixt MacDonalds and Morrisons supermarket.
On the high street in Fort William is Spice Tandoori. Once upon a time located underneath a now defunct night club, it has now upped its game to become one of the most popular dining destinations in the town, and for good reason. Cater for vegans and coeliacs as well as the mainstream diner.
Head out of town for a few miles towards the start of the official trail to the top of Ben Nevis and you will come across the Ben Nevis Inn and Bunkhouse. The menu is traditional rather than exotic but the quality and the service is high.