Ammonia leak from snowmaking machine temporarily closes New Zealand’s largest ski field

Ammonia leaking from a snowmaking machine in Happy Valley closed the ski field (file photo).

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts/Supplied

Ammonia leaking from a snowmaking machine in Happy Valley closed the ski field (file photo).

New Zealand’s largest ski area, on Mount Ruapehu, was forced to close on Saturday morning due to an ammonia leak.

It came after ammonia, which is a colourless, highly irritating gas with a pungent odour, was found to be leaking from a snow making machine in Whakapapa’s Happy Valley on Mount Ruapehu.

A staff member, who did not want to be named, said the ski area was closed prior to visitors being allowed onto the mountain.

“It was very much precautionary action around a leak to do with our snow factory which creates the snow for Happy Valley,” he said.

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“It got the all clear at 8.30am this morning ahead of normal opening which is good.”

He said the leak was discovered during routine checks.

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“There wasn’t really anyone in the area aside from the crew doing the checks that detected it, so it was really good on that basis,” he said. “We do comprehensive checks every day.”

The staff member said there was only a slight delay in opening the mountain.

“We kind of held back and took it softly, softly just to keep everyone safe basically,” he said. “We have [now] got a brilliantly busy morning, it’s going really good, and it’s a lovely day on the mountain.”

WorkSafe had been notified about the incident.

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