Mt. Ruapehu in New Zealand is experiencing one of the worst ski season in decades. Large areas of the dual ski resort are closed at the moment—a shocking situation in the middle of the southern hemisphere winter.
The beginning of the season started promising, with large snowfalls in early June, however, precipitation has since decreased. The resort operated snow machines for the last weeks but this had to be put on hold due to increasing temperatures. Record rainfalls brought on by La Niña destroyed most of the remaining base.
Mt. Ruapehu consists of two ski areas, Tūroa in the southwest and Whakapapa in the north. The former had to temporarily close last weekend while the latter had to reduce operations. The resort had to let go of a third of its staff, 135 employees in total. The bad season has been devastating for the region.
The resort has been struggling during the pandemic and last year was seeking corporate investors. The resort is currently operated by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, which is a not-for-profit company, and many shareholders are private investors from the region.
The news of the dismal season at Mt. Ruapehu might come as a surprise to some SnowBrain readers. Other New Zealand resorts have extended their ski seasons this year and are having bumper seasons. However, popular resorts like Coronet Peak or Treble Cone, are located on New Zealand’s South Island. New Zealand consists of two separate islands, a north and a south island, of which the southern one is much colder due to its proximity to the Antarctic. The North Island, which is home to 77% of New Zealand’s population is significantly warmer. New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland as well as its capital city, Wellington, are located on the North Island.
The season at Mt. Ruapehu goes until late October, so the resort manager, Jo Kennedy, is hoping for some late-season snowfall. Surrounding businesses, dependent on the ski resort, are struggling and everyone is hoping for a second wind towards the end of the season. After two years of covid restrictions, everyone had hoped for a good season. If there is some snowfall, the higher-lying High Noon Express should become operational again and Tūroa could reopen. Let’s hope Tāwhirimātea, the Maori God of weather, will deliver the goods.