The award of £23,786 will enable local bike club, West Highland Wheelers, to develop a series of runs descending the slopes of Aonoch Mor from the 2,200ft (700m) plateau right down to the existing ski car park.

Routes will vary in difficulty enabling use by the recreational cyclist wanting to build their confidence, right up to the armour clad professionals on the international circuit.

Adaptations to the existing ski gondolas will save on pedalling by enabling cyclists to transport their bikes to the top before the exhilarating descent and will introduce a whole new visitor group to the facility.

Project applicant, Damian Forster, of West Highland Wheelers, said, "By extending the existing low level cycle route to the top of the gondola station at Nevis Range we will be creating and unparalleled facility in the UK.

"As with the adjacent ski slopes, users will be kept to specific routes which will be clearly marked and graded for difficulty.

"It is our intention over the next few years to establish the facility's reputation as a downhill venue with the aim of bidding to host future world championship events here in Scotland as early as 2002."

Alastair Dempster, Chairman of sportscotland, adds, "This development will open up the excitement of downhill mountain biking to a whole new group of users against the unique Scottish backdrop of Ben Nevis.

"In addition, it will provide a world class training ground for our existing stars such as Emma and Crawford.

"Sport-related tourism has long been a key contributor to the Highland economy and today's announcement will be a further incentive for people from all parts of Scotland, and beyond, to visit the area and get active in the outdoors."

Another project to encourage people to get out and get active also received support today. An award of £15,000 from the sportscotland lottery fund to Falkirk Council will be used to develop a recreational path network for cyclists, walkers, rider and runners in the Roughcastle area in High Bonnybridge, South West of Falkirk.