Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) chief executive Ross Copland is heading to snowy pastures down south after three years in the role.

Copland will leave at the end of September to take up another chief executive position with Remarkables Park Ltd in Queenstown.

RAL chairman Murray Gribben said Copland had made an outstanding contribution to the ski areas, which have experienced a period of enhanced profitability, licence renewal of the Tūroa ski area, significant infrastructure developments including the new $25 million Sky Waka gondola, and the roll-out of a new digital and e-commerce strategy.

"Ross joined us at a time when we were poised for growth, with the renewed Whakapapa licence enabling us to kick off our $100 million investment into the ski areas over the next 10 years," Gribben said.


Alongside the growth, it has been a time of significant challenges for RAL.

When Copland was appointed in 2016, the public unlisted company was recovering from a devastating diesel spill at Tūroa skifield in 2013 which contaminated the Ohakune water supply and resulted in a fine of $240,000.

He faced public flak in 2017 over charges to access some play areas at the ski fields.

Copland said parents had a range of options to give their children snow play experiences and the family pass was just one.

And one year ago, on July 28, a RAL shuttle crashed on the Ohakune Mountain Rd injuring 18 people and killing 11-year-old Hannah Francis from Auckland.

While no charges were laid against RAL after the accident, the company spent $4m on new four-wheel-drive buses and Copland gave an assurance that the company would work tirelessly "to ensure this never happens again".

Despite the setbacks, RAL experienced a record year in 2018, with the best snowfall in 10 years and visitor numbers doubled from the previous year.

Copland said the position had provided challenging aspects that come with working in such an environment.


"As much as you know there is inherent risk in hosting half a million people a year on the side of an active volcano, you can never fully prepare for some of the things you will face as a leader in this complex environment – you have to react quickly and respond dynamically as things evolve," he said.

One of the most rewarding aspects the job for Copland had been working with tangata whenua through the licence renewal process at Tūroa and the major developments at Whakapapa.