Mt Ruapehu's boss has changed, $55 million into a $100 million upgrade.
Jono Dean has stepped up to Ruapehu Alpine Lifts' chief executive role, having previously been the company's general manager for Whakapapa Ski Area. He took over from outgoing chief executive Ross Copland last week.
RAL chairman Murray Gribben says Dean has been with the company since June 2018 and knows the business well. He says RAL now has ambitious plans to improve the facilities at Tūroa, including potentially building a gondola.
"The key focus for RAL for the immediate future will be on growing the range of recreational experiences we can offer our customers, particularly in the summer season."
• Whakapapa ski area general manager Jono Dean announced as new CEO for Ruapehu Alpine Lifts
• Ruapehu's new $25m gondola lifts off, promising to be tourism game changer
• Skifield boss bows out after three years of trials and triumphs at Tūroa and Whakapapa
• Government to give $10m loan to Ruapehu Alpine Lifts for new ski gondola
Dean says an immediate challenge is to unlock the upper mountain shoulder season.
"Right now we are focused on summer sightseeing products, particularly the novelty of the Sky Waka [gondola]."
The company is in the process of developing a sledding track with a magic carpet just below the Knoll Ridge Cafe. Snow groomers will push whales of snow from the upper mountain into the area previously occupied by the Cindertrack Platter.
"Tourists coming to the upper mountain will have the same offering as Happy Valley."
Dean says it's important the company has local communities on board. He admits it has just been through a very aggressive growth phase and still has a long way to go.
"I am looking forward to getting into the communities and understanding their collective shared values. We need to listen to the community and support their vision. Ohakune, Taumarunui, National Park and Tūrangi house our employees and are the tourist gateways to the mountain."
Changes to the way school groups are provided for has directly affected local communities. He says inclement weather has hampered school groups this season, and feedback so far has been mixed.
Carparking on the mountain, with ski areas carparks regularly at capacity on fine weekends, is another complex challenge "that we are at the pointy end of". Dean warns against a knee-jerk reaction and says RAL and the Department of Conservation need to spend time working out what the problem is.
It's been a tough season with challenging winter weather, and Dean hopes season pass holders will take advantage of weekend skiing through November.
"I am looking forward to welcoming visitors up for the summer so they can enjoy the unforgettable, spectacular views."