- Publish Date
- Thursday, 31 May 2018, 1:59PM
Mt Ruapehu is celebrating the start of winter tomorrow with free skiing and snowboarding at Happy Valley.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts chief executive Ross Copland said recent massive snow dumps have led to lots of requests from the public about opening earlier than the official day on Saturday June 2.
"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."
Ruapehu is the first commercial ski area to open in New Zealand, and Copland said it was 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 past week or so, it should make for fantastic early season skiing.
"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 on Saturday when the ski season officially opens.
Whakapapa may also open its Rangatira Express this weekend, offering skiing and snowboarding on the lower mountain, depending on weather and snow-making.
Friday's early opening will also help benefit the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter fund with donations being taken at the Whakapapa customer relations office on the day.
Copland said more than 2700 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."
The next ski area on Mt Ruapehu scheduled to open is Whakapapa's lower mountain on June 16. Whakapapa's upper mountain follow 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 until Labour Weekend in late October.
The snow-making machine can make snow in temperatures of up to 25C.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.