After 70 years, Auckland Tramping Club has had to hand over the keys to its lodge on Mt Ruapehu.
The SnowSport lodge was gifted to a trust representing five central North Island schools in September after the tramping club was finding it increasingly difficult to meet rising costs.
Club president Tony Walton said it was a bitter-sweet moment.
“Everyone is quite sad because it’s a special place, but we weren’t using it enough – we were basically running it for non-club members,” Walton said. “I’m not celebrating it, but it had to be done.
“We are pleased it’s being taken over by a group of local schools who have a combined roll of over 3000 students. It will never have been so busy.”
The schools will run it as an outdoor education facility.
“The schools are keen that club members still have access to it in the future,” Walton said.
The 32-bunk lodge was originally built in 1948 and has been maintained and managed by the club ever since. But last year, the club decided it could no longer maintain the lodge due to rising insurance and maintenance costs and declining usage.
“The costs indicate that it should be run as a business, but because it is in a national park, we aren’t allowed to,” Walton said.
If the club was unable to find a new leaseholder, it would have been forced to dismantle the hut and remove it from the mountain.
There are 52 lodges in the Whakapapa Ski Area, and Walton believes many others are struggling with the costs. The Downhill Ski Club is trying to give their ski lodge away on Trademe.