$15m upgrade boosts Mt Ruapehu ski season


A new look ski season centred around a multi-million dollar upgrade has paid off in success for Mt Ruapehu. A bumper 2016/17 season was underpinned by $15 million of new infrastructure at Whakapapa, including new snowmaking technology, which proved its value this winter.

Mt Ruapehu Marketing Manager Matt McIvor says, “The new ‘snow factory’ – a machine that can make snow in up to 25 degrees celsius – meant that Whakapapa’s Happy Valley was the first ski area to open in New Zealand on June 3 and both Whakapapa and Turoa were the last to close in late October at Labour Weekend.

“Mother Nature also came to the party with some great snowfall and clear weather as the season progressed resulting in a long, epic season.”

Along with the extra snowmaking, two high-speed elevators transformed the access to Happy Valley, and three new beginner ski lifts eliminated queues. The opening of the new Delta Quad Chairlift and installation of Night Ski lighting at Whakapapa completed the new infrastructure.

New innovations and activities up the mountain also contributed to the season’s success. To make it easier and safer for skiiers to get up the mountain a new snow shuttle service, free for all lift and sightseeing pass holders, was trialed this season as well as a paid daily service from Taupo via Turangi.

The ski area also brought back Night Skiing on Friday and Saturday nights and during school holidays, with the opening of the new Schuss Haus Corona Bar at the top of the Rangatira Express Chairlift adding to the apres ski ambience.

Matt says that the success on the mountain also translated into benefitting the community with a boost to the local economy from tourist spending. “Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) is a not for profit organisation so a successful ski season means more money can be invested back into improving the mountain’s facilities. So it’s a win, win situation for everyone.”

Whakapapa Commercial Manager Phil Neal says that the development had a really positive impact on mountain visitors this season. “We were able to open earlier, for longer and more often with Happy Valley only experiencing 7 closed days this season due to weather.”

“Whakapapa was also open a lot more than in previous years due to the massive increase in snowmaking. Everything from the new shuttle service to the extensive upgrades in Happy Valley to our new Delta Quad chairlift on the upper mountain meant there was more on offer. We look forward to a busy summer of sightseeing, dining, hiking and snow sledding from December 2 before getting back into full winter mode next year.”

Matt adds that Mt Ruapehu is aiming to make skiing accessible and fun for as many New Zealanders as possible and further development planned on the mountain in the near future will help achieve this.

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