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SAM Magazine—Auckland, New Zealand, June 27, 2023—Just weeks before the start of the 2023 Southern Hemisphere ski season, the central government of New Zealand has provided a NZD$5 million loan to bail out two financially struggling North Island ski fields that operate on Mt. Ruapehu. Mt Ruapehu

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL), the operator of Tūroa and Whakapapa ski fields, went into voluntary bankruptcy last year and was placed into liquidation last week when creditors were unable to agree on an option to salvage the operations, according to the New Zealand Herald.

However, this week, Regional Development Minister Kiri Allan announced the government would provide funding to RAL, with the goal of saving hundreds of jobs and circumventing further the economic loss to the region. 

“The continuation of skiing operations on Mt. Ruapehu will ensure the substantial economic and social benefits from Tūroa and Whakapapa are retained into the future,” Toby Arnott, chairman of the Ski Areas Association New Zealand (SAANZ), told SAM

SAANZ voiced its support for the continued operation of the ski fields ahead of the creditors meeting, noting that the skiing operation supported “1,500 direct and indirect jobs and more than [NZD] $100 million of economic activity in the local communities.” 

The government loan will “ensure the ski season on Mount Ruapehu goes ahead this year,” said Minister Allan in a statement to the Herald. It will also allow time for liquidators to agree on the purchaser or purchasers of the business and its assets.

The central government is now considering three bids from parties interested in taking over the ski operations on the mountain. 

Pandemic-related closures and poor conditions reportedly led to RAL’s NZD$45 million debt. RAL employs about 700 people in the winter, though, and “The maunga [mountain] is an essential part of the New Zealand ski industry,” said Arnott. 

Tūroa is one of New Zealand's largest ski areas with the nation’s longest vertical drop of about 2,368 feet. The area’s High Noon Express' six-person chairlift reaches the highest point in New Zealand. Located adjacent to Whakapapa, the two areas feature 2,594 acres of skiing and a lift infrastructure of seven chair lifts, and 10 surface lifts. 

Both areas have projected opening dates published on their websites. Whakapapa has a scheduled opening date of July 1, while operations at Tūroa are planned to begin July 15.