The ribbon has been cut on the first $20m of investment at Whakapapa Ski Area signalling the commencement of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts $100m reinvestment programme.

Prime Minister Bill English officially opened the Ruapehu Alpine Lift's new Snow Factory as well as Whakapapa's Rangitira Express Quad chairlift yesterday.

The Snow Factory is New Zealand's first all-weather snow making machine and will allow Happy Valley to open earlier than ever this season.

"Thanks to our new Snow Factory, Happy Valley at Whakapapa will be the first to open in Australasia for the 2017 winter season on Saturday June 3, and the last to close on Labour weekend," Mt Ruapehu chief executive Ross Copland said.

The extended season is now the longest in the Southern Hemisphere attracting economic development to the central North Island during what was previously the quietest time of the year.

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There is now double the snowmaking on Whakapapa's lower mountain, all weather snowmaking on Happy Valley, and more snowmaking at Turoa.

Prime Minster Bill English opened the new Rangatira Quad Express chairlift yesterday. Photo/Supplied
Prime Minster Bill English opened the new Rangatira Quad Express chairlift yesterday. Photo/Supplied

The new Delta Quad chairlift on the upper mountain is a $3.2m project, which includes snowmaking on Turtle Run and welcomes beginner/intermediate skiers back to the upper mountain.

Happy Valley has three new surface lifts, two of these include see-through tunnels to keep skiers dry and sheltered while riding the lifts. The existing 'Double Happy' lift will remain as an ideal transition for those who wish to learn to ride a chairlift before moving higher up the mountain to the new Rangatira Express Quad on Whakapapa Ski Area.

Happy Valley also features a dedicated snow play zone with its own covered surface lift.
This will be situated away from skiers & snowboarders as a designated zone purely for tobogganing, building snowmen, & playing in the snow.

Other big 2017 season highlights include the re-launch of night skiing on the slopes of Happy Valley and Whakapapa's lower mountain until 9pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

Live entertainment, pizza and drink specials along with fire pits for toasting marshmallows brings first class Apres Ski to Whakapapa.

Getting to the slopes is also easier than ever with a new bus service from Ohakune to Turoa and National Park to Whakapapa, this service is free to anyone who holds a life, season or day pass.

A brand new bus service operating between Taupo and Whakapapa will start on June 3 connecting the resort town to the mountain.

Fares for adults are $49 return with discounts for RAL day and season pass holders.

Happy Valley is set to open on June 3, followed by Whakapapa's lower mountain on June 10 and Whakapapa and Turoa Ski Areas on July 1.