WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) – Two of New Zealand’s largest ski areas yesterday were placed into a type of bankruptcy proceeding following a disastrous winter season with barely any snow.
The Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas, which are both owned by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, entered what is called voluntary administration. The proceeding is open to failing New Zealand businesses and has some similarities to Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedures in the United States (US).
Under voluntary administration, the company directors appoint outside experts to review and rearrange finances and determine whether the company can be saved.
The company laid off 135 workers in mid-August and currently employs about 196 people at the two ski areas. The poor snow season came after the previous two seasons were severely disrupted by COVID-19.
The Turoa ski area was forced to close for the season last week, three weeks earlier than planned. Whakapapa will remain open through October 24.
Rain repeatedly washed away the snow this year, and Turoa’s 50 snowmaking machines proved no match against balmy temperatures. Climate change appears to be a significant factor, after New Zealand experienced its warmest winter on record – for the third year in a row.
Voluntary Administrator John Fisk, of PwC New Zealand, said the last three seasons had placed Ruapehu Alpine Lifts under significant cashflow pressure. He said the company had tried without success to get more money from investors and the government.
“The Voluntary Administrators will now continue to trade the business while we look to determine the most appropriate way forward to maximise recoveries for creditors,” Fisk said in a statement.
Should the ski areas be forced to close permanently, it would leave the North Island, where more than three-quarters of the nation’s five million people live, without any major ski areas.
Even in New Zealand’s cooler South Island, climate change is raising questions about the future of skiing and snowboarding. The sports have long been important for attracting foreign tourist dollars to New Zealand and form part of the nation’s identity as an outdoor adventure destination.