There were sunny days, good crowds and lots of snow - but some dark times on Mount Ruapehu during the ski season.

"It's been a season of two distinct halves," Ruapehu Alpine Lifts CEO Ross Copland said.

Visitors to the Whakapapa ski area doubled, from 140,000 in the 2016 season to 280,000 this season. At Tūroa the conditions were just as good - but it had a bus crash that killed an 11-year-old girl and a big avalanche that took out its highest ski lift.

Snowfall on the mountain was the best in at least 10 years, and there will be no problem keeping the season open until closing day on October 22.


"We will have snow until Christmas at this rate," Copland said.

New Zealand ski fields had better marketing this year, with Australians especially targeted.

The Ruapehu District has been flooded with visitors, and house prices in tourist areas have increased 13 to 14 per cent.

RAL's $100 million investment to upgrade facilities could also be increasing visitor numbers. It began when licences for the two ski areas were renewed in November 2015, and is about half way through.

Whakapapa has new ski lifts and restaurants, and building work for its $25 million gondola begins soon. It will be the biggest aerial ropeway in New Zealand's history, Copland said.

Engineering work on it has begun, and parts being made in Europe will arrive in December.

Spending at Tūroa begins next year. In the meantime, the bus accident on July 28 cast a shadow for staff as well as those involved.

"For me and for our team it's taken a real toll [in our work load and on our emotions]. We are not a massive company. We are a lean team. We are hosting nearly half a million visitors in quite an intense few months."

RAL engaged contractors to provide transport to the ski area after the accident. It is being investigated, and the results are still unknown.

The avalanche that damaged two High Noon chairlift towers on August 6 was another bad moment.

No one was hurt and it happened as snow safety crews were setting explosives to move unstable snow - a daily safety operation - but it was bigger and in a different area than expected.

"It was a big size for an avalanche. At peak it was heading close to 100km/h, a snow wall coming down right over the top of the building at the top of High Noon."

It put Tūroa's highest ski lift out of action for the rest of the season.

"That's part of the challenge of an amazing snow year."

Being on a mountain made for risks, but "it gets in your blood", Copland said.

It was his second season as RAL's chief executive, and he was a finalist in the New Zealand Tourism Awards this year.