Happy Valley fee U-turn
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) has back-tracked over a proposed charge to access the previously free Happy Valley and Alpine Meadow areas after a public backlash.
The company, which runs the Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields, has backed down from plans to charge $59 for adults and $35 for children.
On Monday, RAL chief executive Ross Copland announced snow lovers would have access to a free sledding and snow play area at the bottom of the Alpine Meadow.
‘‘This, and the additional area within Happy Valley, came about after engagement with concerned locals over the past few weeks. We listened to the issues raised and have worked with our team on a solution,’’ he said.
Copland had earlier stood by the charges, saying the proposed costs were fair. But locals accused RAL of money-grabbing and exploiting legislation.
Copland said RAL took the feedback ‘‘very seriously’’.
‘‘Our reputation as a community focused organisation is hugely important to us,’’ he said on Monday.
One of RAL’s key aims was to encourage skiers of all abilities to the ski fields to experience snow, especially families, he said.
‘‘Everyone will continue to enjoy free snow play and sled- ding in designated areas at both Whakapapa and Turoa’’.
RAL had invested $4m in the Happy Valley area, including covered lifts and state of the art snowmaking machinery, Copland said.
The areas RAL planned on charging for were slopes about the size of a quarter acre section.
Happy Valley was blanketed in snow early this year thanks to the snow making machines, he said.
‘‘It’s a fine balance between recouping the huge investment we’ve put into new facilities at Happy Valley to create a better snow experience, and the translation into a subsequent cost for users,’’ he said.
Copland said the organisation was reviewing its pricing structure in response to public feedback.
More than 2700 people headed up the mountain for Happy Valley’s opening weekend on June 3 and 4.