Record numbers for Whakapapa
STEPH RANGI Mt Ruapehu’s 2018 opening weekend smashed last year’s visitor record with over 3000 visitors.
The early start to the ski season is proving popular with skiers and snowboarders. Local communities are also benefiting from the early influx of visitors to the region.
Whakapapa welcomed 3685 visitors over Queen’s Birthday opening weekend, smashing last year’s opening weekend record of 2700 visitors.
‘‘The growth validates the $23million investment in new facilities at Whakapapa in the past two years - including a snow factory and new lifts,’’ Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) chief executive Ross Copland said.
‘‘Local businesses have also reported extremely strong numbers with Chateau Tongariro saying that they were full of skiing families from New Zealand and Australia over the long weekend.’’
Joerg and Silvia from Hanover, Germany, travelled to National Park for the first three days of the New Zealand ski season at Whakapapa Skifield.
Joerg said he was looking forward to learning to snowboard.
‘‘I’m already a pretty decent skier, because we’ve always gone skiing in the mountains in Germany,’’ he said.
National Park was the pair’s first stop in New Zealand, as part of a three-week trip.
Traditionally June has been one of the quietest months of the year for the Ruapehu region due to the ski areas not opening until early July.
‘‘With snowmaking capacity now matching our counterparts in [the] South Island, and a June opening, we can guarantee the longest snow season in New Zealand,’’ Copland said.
‘‘Rather than being the last to open, Whakapapa is now the first commercial ski area to open and that’s a big deal not only for us, but for the wider Taupo¯Ruapehu visitor economy.’’
And the outlook for more snow is looking good, with more forecast this week.