Mt Ruapehu, in New Zealand's central North Island, was abuzz this weekend as a record number of skiiers and snowboarders headed to Happy Valley's opening - a month earlier than in 2016.
It was the biggest season opening turnout in the last decade for New Zealand’s premier beginners' playground.
More than 2,700 people headed up the volcano on Saturday and Sunday to check out the 'new look' Happy Valley. Just over four hours from Auckland, Mt Ruapehu is home to the premier ski areas on the North Island, Whakapapa being the largest in New Zealand.
The purchase of New Zealand’s only Techno Alpin SF210 All-Weather Snowmaking System made it possible for the ski area to make sufficient snow to open the Double Happy Chairlift.
The Snow Factory blasted a snow pile into the Happy Valley Plaza for guests who weren’t skiing or snowboarding to get their first touch of snow for winter 2017.
Ross Copland, CEO of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) says, "Our new snow machine is in full swing and thanks to the snow it's pumping out we were able to open Happy Valley a whole month earlier than last year. This means that we can cement an annual ski season opening date without having to rely on the sometimes-fickle weather to deliver snow.”
The RAL team has been working through the summer to finish an exciting transformation at Happy Valley. As well as reliable snow, three new carpet lifts are being installed - two will be covered by see-through gallery tunnels.
It’s not just Happy Valley receiving new upgrades, there is now double the snowmaking on Whakapapa’s lower mountain and more snowmaking at Turoa.
Further scheduled work will take place over the coming month to complete the new Delta Quad chairlift on Whakapapa’s upper mountain which includes snowmaking on Turtle Run and welcomes beginner to intermediate skiers to the upper mountain.
Both Turoa and Whakapapa Ski Areas are scheduled to open on 1 July.