Ruapehu's Happy Valley to stay free after public outcry
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) has back-tracked over a proposed charge to access the previously free Happy Valley and Alpine Meadow play and sledding areas after a public backlash.
The company, which runs the Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields, has backed down from plans to charge $59 for adults and $35 for children.
RAL will provide areas for people to sled for free,which are not accessed by lifts.
On Monday, RAL chief executive Ross Copland announced snow lovers would have access to a free sledding and snow play area at the bottom of the Alpine Meadow.
"This, and the additional area within Happy Valley, came about after engagement with concerned locals over the past few weeks. We listened to the issues raised and have worked with our team on a solution," he said.
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The company has said people are welcome to find a spot to play and sled in, just not on the main trails where people ski as it poses danger to themselves, and beginner skiiers and snowboarders.
RAL will still offer the $59 and $35 services (though, free for those under 10 with an accompanying paying adult), including covered carpet lift pass, sled hire, sightseeing lift pass.
Copland had earlier stood by the charges, saying the proposed costs were fair.
But locals accused RAL of money-grabbing and exploiting legislation.
Copland said RAL took the feedback "very seriously".
"Our reputation as a community focused organisation is hugely important to us," he said on Monday.
One of RAL's key aims was to encourage skiers of all abilities to the ski fields to experience snow, especially families, he said.
"Everyone will continue to enjoy free snow play and sledding in designated areas at both Whakapapa and Turoa".
RAL had invested $4m in the Happy Valley area, including covered lifts and state of the art snowmaking machinery, Copland said.
Happy Valley was blanketed in snow early this year thanks to the snow making machines, he said.
"It's a fine balance between recouping the huge investment we've put into new facilities at Happy Valley to create a better snow experience, and the translation into a subsequent cost for users," he said.
Copland said the organisation was now reviewing its pricing structure in response to public feedback.
More than 2700 people headed up the mountain for Happy Valley's opening weekend on June 3 and 4.