Mt Ruapehu is celebrating the start of winter on Friday June 1 (tomorrow) with free skiing and snowboarding at Happy Valley.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) Chief Executive Officer Ross Copland says,”After the recent massive May snow dumps there’s been lots of requests from the public around opening earlier than Saturday. We’ve listened and will be offering a free taster in Happy Valley on Friday, so there will be no charges for lift passes to ski from 11am – 2pm.”
The following day, on Saturday, the ski season will officially open. As the first commercial ski area to open in New Zealand Ross says it’s shaping up to be a great season.
“With our snowmaking technology and a big boost from Mother Nature, which has blanketed Whakapapa Ski Area with snow over the last week or so, it should make for fantastic early season skiing,” he says.
“We’re not ruling out an early opening of Turoa as well if this weather keeps delivering snow and cold temperatures.”
The chairlift and carpet lifts in Happy Valley will be operating on Friday for skiing and snowboarding to welcome winter. Lift-accessed sledding will then be added to the offering from Saturday when the ski season officially opens. Whakapapa may also open its Rangatira Express this weekend, offering skiing and snowboarding on the lower mountain (this will be weather and snow making dependent).
Friday’s early opening will also help benefit the Greenlea Rescue Helicopterfund with donations being taken at the Whakapapa Customer Relations office on the day.
More than 2,700 people headed up the mountain on opening weekend last year setting a 10 year record high. “We’re hoping to break last year’s opening weekend record, especially with all the hype around the recent snowfall and the latest reports from Metservice that it’s going to be a cold winter season,” Ross says.
The early start means skiiers and snowboarders can polish their skills and then move on to other parts of the mountain as the season progresses. New Zealand’s highest café, the Knoll Ridge, will also be open for sightseeing on Saturday with spectacular views across the North Island.
To celebrate the early season snowfall a special ‘June learn to ski package deal’ will be on offer as well as live music in the Base Area. Whakapapa’s new mascot ‘Skiwi’ will also be there for photos.
The next ski area on Mt Ruapehu scheduled to open is Whakapapa’s Lower Mountain on June 16, with Whakapapa Upper mountain following on June 30 and Turoa Ski Area on June 29.
The early season opening is thanks to Mt Ruapehu’s new snow making technology, offering skiers and snowboarders the longest scheduled winter season in New Zealand, operating through until Labour Weekend in late October.
RAL installed the Snow Factory at the beginning of the 2017 ski season and it’s New Zealand’s first all-weather snow making machine, capable of making snow in temperatures of up to 25 degrees Celsius.