With steep fjords, pristine bays, lush mountains, skyrocketing geysers, boiling mud pools, and wildlife out of a Dr. Seuss book, stories of New Zealand can verge on mythical. Which is why over the last couple of decades it has become a pilgrimage site for the world’s adventurers, Jill Kintner included. “I want to live in New Zealand for a few months and travel around the entire country,” she says. “I’ve been to Rotorua for riding and had the best time.”
From Rotorua, surrounded by geysers, lakes, hot springs, Maori communities, and miles of singletrack, Kintner would hit Queenstown, the country’s adventure hub for trekking, rafting, and skiing. After that, she’d swing over to Christchurch and Nelson, a sunny artist colony and the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. Of course, much of the appeal of road tripping New Zealand lies in winging it, a concept Kintner embraces. “There are outdoor activities everywhere,” says Kintner, “and the scenery is epic.”
Few mountain bikers match Jill Kintner’s impressive collection of hardware: She has won three consecutive UCI 4X championships—mountain cross—world titles in 2005, 2006, and 2007 and four U.S. national 4X champions; and snagged a bronze in BMX at the 2008 Olympic Games. Now, she’s setting her sights on a new discipline: downhill. In her first year, 2010, she came home as—what else?—the national champ.