Ruapehu’s ski season got off to a rough start due to the lack of snow. Video/RNZ
The Mt Ruapehu ski fields in Whakapapa and Tūroa were closed just nine weeks after the start of the ski season due to “record” warm weather.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd (RAL), the company that operates the two ski areas, will lose a third of its 405 employees over the next week, the company said in a statement today.
RAL executive Jono Dean said this winter was one of the warmest, wettest and wettest on record.
“La Niña-influenced off-season weather has had a major impact on snow cover in the Whakapapa and Tūroa ski areas,” Dean said.
“The Tūroa ski area in particular has been severely affected, with snowfall levels well below historical averages so far this season.
“This means operations are sparse, with fewer than five elevators operating at any one time.”
Dean’s statement said Tūroa’s six-seater express chairlift, The High Noon, is currently not operational because it requires 20cm to 30cm of snow to operate again.
Snowfall at the Whakapapa ski area was also well below its five-year average, the RAL statement said.
Tūroa is temporarily closed and only the Happy Valley and Sky Waka cable cars will continue to operate in Whakapapa.
“With fewer and fewer facilities in operation, the ski resort management team had to rationalize work into the second half of the winter,” Dean said.
“Over the next week, we’ll be saying goodbye to about a third of our total team of 405 people, the biggest impact we’ve seen in Tūroa.”
Dean’s statement said some of those affected by the ski closures would turn to casual work, while others would seek new jobs in the South Island with the support of the RAL.
“We are looking to connect with the local community, solidify any job opportunities and share those opportunities with those who wish to remain in the area,” Dean said.
“While these impacts are significant, as of today, we have more than half of our planned season to go.
“We intend to do our best in both ski areas, as conditions permit.”
Dean expressed the RAL’s gratitude to the public for their support and patience.
“Late snowfall and excellent spring skiing are what Mount Ruapehu is known for.”
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