Over 70s disappointed after missing out on free ski passes at Mt Ruapehu

1:47 pm on 13 September 2019

Some over-70s who have enjoyed free skiing on Mount Ruapehu for years have said they are upset they missed out this year after the operator changed the rules without warning.

Turoa ski field

Photo: 123RF

Skiers over the age of 70 are entitled to a free Super Pass but this year had to apply for a pass before 30 April.

Pam Hansen, 83, has spent more than 60 years skiing - most of them at Whakapapa in the central North Island.

But this year she was told she was too late to apply for the free Super Pass.

Mrs Hansen said it was a shock to learn that Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd (RAL) had changed the system.

"We didn't know anything about this sudden and catastrophic change because we weren't told," she said.

"None of us have had to apply for a ski pass for so many years, so now, only a few weeks ago, we had to get up to Hut Flat, and suddenly someone said to me 'the free passes have gone' and I could not believe it."

At the same time, eligibility was restricted to those who had purchased a pass in a previous year.

Mrs Hansen's partner, Ian MacIndoe, said they were never warned of the changes.

"When you went searching on RAL's website, you found that if you applied between some dates in October and the end of April, you could get some other sort of pass," he said.

"But this only seemed to become knowledge to skiers in about July/August. RAL would've had our email addresses but they never emailed out to say the passes are changing, it just seemed to happen."

Mrs Hansen wrote to RAL to try to resolve the situation, but was told they would have to pay the normal fees.

That would mean she would have to fork out over $1100 for a regular season pass, or buy a $129 a day pass.

"I'm so deeply disappointed this has happened," she said. "I can't believe it, $129 a day for passes is beyond most people this age, because lots of us don't go skiing for a whole day."

After RNZ contacted RAL about the rule change, the company said on Wednesday that they were looking into the situation with Mrs Hansen. She has now had her pass reloaded.

RAL explained they could not communicate the date change with everyone due to the Electronic Messages Act.

After speaking with Mrs Hansen, RAL confirmed that she had not been subscribed, so was not available to be contacted.

But with only few weeks left of the 2019 ski season, it's probably too late for Pam Hansen and Ian MacIndoe.

"Some of us are lucky enough at this age to still be fit, and to still love skiing. It just seems tragic that the company has suddenly just done something that's changed your life."

She said she has spent her life on the slopes, and it's where she brought her kids up as well.

"Whakapapa has been our favourite ski ground. We skiied there as young people a few times before I was married, and we brought our children up skiing at Whakapapa being in ski race teams, having lessons from RAL, and we just spent so much time on the mountain."