Ruapehu is ready for a big season
STEPHANIE RANGI The North Island’s main skifield operator hopes to open both major ski areas early this year.
Hopes are high for a record crowd for this weekend’s opening of the Happy Valley Snow Park and learning area.
Last week’s snow has been supplemented by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts’ new snow making technology.
Chief executive, Ross Copland said it was shaping up to be a great season.
‘‘With our snowmaking technology and a big boost from Mother Nature ... it should make for fantastic early season skiing,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re not ruling out an early opening of Turoa as well if this weather keeps delivering the snow.’’
More than 2700 people were at the opening weekend last year which was a 10-year record.
‘‘We’re hoping to break last year’s opening weekend record, especially with all the engagement around [last] week’s snowfall and the latest reports from Metservice that this will be a bumper winter season,’’ Copland said.
Happy Valley will be the first area to open thanks to the snow making, which has been running since April 3, and the recent dump of snow.
The snow making machine has been producing about 210 cubic metres per day over the past 40 days.
Copland said the early start meant skiers and snowboarders would benefit immensely.
‘‘[They] can polish their skills and then move on to other parts of the mountain as the season progresses,’’ he said.
On opening day, there will be a ‘first chair’ competition for the first two skiers or snowboarders riding the Double Happy Chair.
‘‘It is likely they will be the first in Australasia to ride a chairlift for the 2018 winter season,’’ he said.
If all runs smoothly, RAL will open the Whakapa lower mountain on June 16 and the upper mountain on June 30. Turoa is set to open on June 29.