Thousands head up Mt Ruapehu over long weekend
More than 2,000 people took to Mt Ruapehu over the long weekend to sightsee and ride the Sky Waka.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts CEO Jon Dean says it was great to welcome the first winter guests to the mountain and receive such great feedback from Kiwis who had never discovered the region.
He says the team’s focus now turns to getting ready to open both Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields, hopefully on July 1.
"We’re planning to open the ski areas this season every day the weather permits with top to bottom skiing and riding, but not all lifts are able to operate due to COVID-19 affecting preparation, maintenance and staff hiring time lost during the lockdown."
The value of the new Sky Waka in attracting more visitors to the mountain and the region was reflected in this success of Queen’s Birthday weekend, says Jono.
Last year without the gondola operating 898 people visited over the long weekend, this year the total was 2,052.
"This highlights the value of Sky Waka to the entire region with visitors not only heading up the mountain but also boosting the local economy with accommodation, food and other sightseeing spend," Jono says.
He adds that the long weekend was a good opportunity to run through the procedures around the COVID-19 Level 2 restrictions currently in place on the mountain before the ski areas open, including social distancing for queues and on the Sky Waka, which was loaded in travel ‘bubbles’ or limited numbers.