Happy Val­ley re­mains free af­ter out­cry

Central Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - STAFF RE­PORTER

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.

Those ar­eas had tra­di­tion­ally been used by North Is­land fam­i­lies giv­ing chil­dren their first taste of snow.

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 sled­ding in des­ig­nated ar­eas 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 were plan­ning on charg­ing for about the size of a la­tion into a sub­se­quent cost for users,’’ he said.

Co­p­land said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was now re­view­ing its pric­ing struc­ture.

More than 2700 peo­ple headed up the moun­tain for Happy Val­ley’s open­ing week­end on June 3 and 4.

FRANCES FER­GU­SON/FAIRFAX NZ

Khloe-Joy Tami­hana has fun in the snow mound chil­dren can play in for free out­side Happy Val­ley Bistro.

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