What did I know about Ruapehu a week ago? I was pretty sure it was a volcano and home to a couple of New Zealand’s largest ski fields, Turoa and Whakapapa. I have been skiing and snowboarding off and on for several years but had not gotten around to exploring any of the North Island’s fields, so when the opportunity arose I grabbed it, and learned what a top destination it is.
On arrival at Turoa ski field I was feeling hungry; breakfast seemed like a distant dream and I was ready for a quick coffee and snack to recharge my batteries. They must have read my mind as the Alpine Chalet Cafe, located conveniently next to the beginners area, does an excellent flat white. I always like to warm up and the 120m long Magic Carpet tow looked enticing, so after my coffee I do three gentle fun runs before heading for the chairlifts. The carpet is basically a conveyor belt - you just stand on it (on your board or skis) and it transports you smoothly up the slope. It was fun to watch the antics of the little children riding toboggans alongside the beginners slope while just relaxing on the ride up.
Turoa is perfect for all abilities – there is something for everyone. I found myself well catered for by the twelve groomed intermediate runs that are generally smooth and wide and link up to each other. I was a little rusty after missing out on the last couple of seasons, so it was just perfect to have a really nice long run from the top of Australasia’s highest lift to the base area. I signed on for a group lesson and after getting in a couple of runs it’s time to meet up with the instructor. The hour and fifty-minute lesson is perfect for me. I am an intermediate boarder and keen to start moving a little higher up the slopes, and afterwards I feel like I am turning a lot more fluidly and relaxing into it. Chatting with my instructor Sigmund Chan (Siggy) he tells me he splits his year between Turoa and Whistler in Canada. His first season at Turoa was in 2007, and he has been back and worked five full seasons since then. Talking to Sigmund his
love for teaching comes across clearly: “I love teaching as I love seeing people get stoked from this sport, anything from doing their first turns to landing a trick.”. Sigmund’s teaching style totally appeals to me: he explains things clearly and simply and avoids becoming too technical. He also takes the time to go over the best tactics to deal with varying snow conditions from ice to bumps and also gives individual feedback. Feeling on a high after making good progress, it’s time to break for lunch at Turoa’s incredible Giant Cafe located three-quarters of the way up the mountain. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, and there is plenty of hot food, fresh sandwiches and espresso. I sit with a group of snowboarders and skiers who by all accounts are die hard Turoa regulars. Matt, a twenty-something shredder from Auckland, tells me this is his seventh season at Turoa, and it is still as exciting to him as his first. He loves some of the more challenging terrain Turoa offers such as the longest vertical drop in Australasia (I immediately make a mental note to avoid that!). There is a great energy about this group of guys and girls, and it is fun to hear their stories. Too soon, the sun is hanging a little lower in the sky, and it’s time to make one last run. The views from the mountain are breathtaking, and it is good for the soul to take a few minutes to appreciate the natural beauty surrounding the highest mountain in the North
The Central Plateau