Responsible environmental stewardship is an increasingly important aspect of operating a snowsport businesses within a national treasure such as the Tongariro National Park.
RAL is taking a definitive stance in reducing its environmental footprint on Mt Ruapehu and has introduced a number of measures to ensure a cleaner, greener and more sustainable operation. We will continue to maintain and expand these processes, working with the Department of Conservation and Iwi, to ensure the impact of snow-sports activities on the mountain are minimised wherever possible.
We will update this page as we develop new and greener ways of operating and demonstrate our commitment to reducing the environmental impact upon the mountain.
RAL WASTE REDUCTION
RAL is focusing a comprehensive waste reduction process on the mountain. Using compostable and/or recyclable material wherever possible, is enabling the company to reduce its environmental footprint.
It includes compostable food packaging materials for sandwich containers etc (whilst still meeting hygiene standards), moving toward a pre-cycling system by using non-disposable cups and glasses in mountain cafes and, wherever possible, ensuring that minimal throwaway items are sold in food and beverage outlets on the mountain, and making sure that recycling bins for plastic, glass and aluminum cans are readily available and accessible. Recycling of oils from deep fryers is also now standard practice.
Recycling of hard objects is also now standard practice, with all steel items, including cables, lift parts and machinery being removed from the mountain and sent for recycling. Damaged concrete from the old Knoll Ridge Café and other older lift tower foundations have been crushed, with the aggregate being reused and the reinforcing steel also sent for recycling. Whilst recycling to this level is expensive it is simply a cost of doing business today and RAL is committed to expanding this aspect of its operation.
RAL VEGETATION MONITORING
As part of its ongoing study on its environmental impact on Mt Ruapehu RAL has, for many years, had a series of botanical transects established, in Happy Valley at Whakapapa and the Alpine Meadow at Turoa. These transects are continually monitored to check plant life along the line, to ascertain if there is degradation or a diminishing of vegetative life and determine the impact within the two areas.
To date there has been no evidence of any botanical demise and, in the Alpine Meadow area, there is evidence that plant life is actually improving. It has been suggested that this is because the ski area traffic has actually reduced the number of rabbits in that area of the mountain during the summer months.
At Whakapapa, the original botanical transects, established in 1990, to check the impact of higher and denser snow-mass from both snowmaking and snow grooming, show no measurable degradation, an extremely positive and rewarding result.
New and more powerful Kassbohrer 600 Pisten Bully snow grooming machines are enabling RAL to develop and maintain higher grooming standards. The bigger machines use less fuel and have lower emissions than the older 400 machines and are 20% to 30% more productive, resulting in more extensive trail grooming in a shorter time. The new machines also have improved implements which result in an additional gain; more effective blades and tillers mean that a single pass can create corduroy conditions which previously would have required at least two grooming passes.
The use of winch cats means that up and down grooming is possible, which is not only more efficient in terms of grooming time but also means snow swept down by skiers and boarders is pushed back up the slopes and effectively reused. This is a tremendous bonus in steeper or more confined and heavily trafficked areas and enables good grooming on trails that were previously left untouched by the groomers.
Whilst it would be an advantage to use bio-diesel, with its better environmental impact, it is not readily available in New Zealand. However it is likely that in coming years it will be in more common use and, as the new machines are fully capable of operating on bio-diesel, it is just a matter of time before this happens and the environmental footprint of the grooming fleet will be correspondingly reduced.
HIGH MOUNTAIN COFFEE
RAL staff who like their daily fix of coffee have been treated to individual, re-useable cups for the 2015 season. It’s all part of the focus on reducing the environmental impact on the mountain. With over 700 on-mountain staff during the season, that’s a lot of disposable cups coming out of the staff rooms.
By supplying the staff with the individualised re-useable cups the company has not only reduced the litter and wastage problem but it’s also created cleaner staff areas, instilled a sense of environmental ownership amongst staff and potentially lowered costs.
RAL have also offered a 50 cent discount to all customers if their coffee is put in a reusable cup; another way of enabling customers to help reduce their footprint on the mountain. It’s astonishing how much the use of re-usable coffee cups, and real drinking glasses at café water fountains, has already had in terms of rubbish reduction.