Mt Ruapehu has plenty to offer snow enthusiasts of all skill levels
Situated in the famous dual world heritage status Tongariro National Park, snow enthusiasts will be delighted by the spectacular terrain of Mt Ruapehu and its breathtaking scenery while they ski, snowboard, sight see and enjoy some snow play.
With more than 1000 hectares of terrain within the ski area boundaries, Mt Ruapehu offers something for everyone: fantastic learners’ facilities, terrain parks for snowboarders and free skiers of all abilities, and some of the best spring skiing and riding in New Zealand.
Kiwis and tourists alike are able to enjoy the sacred peaks today thanks to Horonuku Te Heu Heu Tukino, Paramount Chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa. His gift of Ruapehu (plus Ngauruhoe and Tongariro) to New Zealand, forming the country’s first national park, allowed for the mountains’ conservation since September 1887. The Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Rangi and Ngati Uenuku people still recognize Ruapehu’s ski areas as their traditional lands. This blend of past and present, culture and sport, drives a thriving community every season.
Whakapapa is the larger of the two ski areas. It’s situated on the northwestern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, and offers a fantastic variety of terrain, a premier learner’s facility and breathtaking views from the highest cafè in New Zealand.
The diversity available for intermediate and advanced riders at Whakapapa is vast. There are more than 30 groomed intermediate trails and 24 “black diamond” advanced trails, but the unique volcanic terrain offers variety beyond those big numbers. The natural features of the terrain provide skiers and snowboarders with a selection of long and wide-open runs, steep chutes, mean drop-offs and big bowls.
During those glorious powder days, secret stashes can be discovered all across the mountain. This is when the Black Magic back country terrain really earns its reputation. Accessed by the Far West T-bar, this off-piste area offers fresh lines and deep powder for experts kitted out with proper equipment.
For beginners, Whakapapa’s Happy Valley is a world-class learner’s facility: It’s the place to master the basics. With a gentle slope and long profile, beginners can increase their confidence before trying the more advanced facilities that Whakapapa has to offer.
Self-contained with a separate slow-moving chair, its own cafè, rental department and snow sports centre meeting point, Happy Valley is absolutely ideal for families and novices. It also has a fantastic tobogganing and snow play area.
“It was honestly the best family decision we made last year. As a family we got 12 skiing days in, and it was the best family time,” remarks Pete, a Season Pass holder. “The kids were progressing at differing speeds so we would often have a family ski in the morning, lunch at the cafè and then break up into smaller groups. Needless to say, when we discussed with them whether we wanted to do it all again this year, it was a resounding ‘Yes’!”
Whakapapa is also home to the architecturally renowned Knoll Ridge Cafè.
At 2020m above sea level, it’s the highest cafè in New Zealand. Visitors can enjoy an incredible view of the central plateau and beyond through the large glass sides of the building.
It’s perhaps the most famous cafè in New Zealand now, recently named Best Designed Cafè in 2015 by Design Curial out of more than 1000 candidates worldwide. Accessible via scenic chairlift rides for those with a more relaxed deposition, the Knoll Ridge Cafè is an absolute must for skiers, snowboarders and sightseers when visiting the area.
A brand new quad express chairlift is being installed at Whakapapa for the 2016
winter season to replace two double chairs previously at the location. With increased capacity, style and comfort, new and old visitors to Whakapapa will be delighted with the exciting development this season.
Turoa Ski Area is situated on the southwestern slopes of Mt Ruapehu. Boasting a massive 722m of vertical descent, this is a ski destination you simply must experience at least once. The express six-seater High Noon express chair gives adventure seekers speedy access to the top of the ski area in comfort—foot rests and heated seats included.
The Alpine Meadow is absolutely perfect for beginners getting on their feet (literally). With a 120m long ‘magic carpet’ taking to take you up the slope, plus the Alpine Bar and Cafè next door, this great area is largely utilised by novices and families. The advanced riding that Turoa offers is exceptional. An additional 25 black and black diamond runs allow riders to enjoy a wide range of turf.
Enjoy the natural half pipes and chutes through the Organ Pipes terrain and the aptly named Solitude backcountry area. Or, slash through the wide, sweeping terrain of the Triangle and Glacier backcountry area; it’s the best lift-accessible backcountry terrain in the country.
The steep Hamilton Face also offers its own personal off-piste playground for the serious big mountain rider. Reserved for the experts, the ever-changing natural features keep the most progressive riders happy all day.
Snow sports and play are not the only options in the Ruapehu area, though. There’s plenty to do, such as the famous Tongariro Crossing one-day hike, mountain biking trails, scenic chairlift rides on the mountain and other great thrills on the river.
With Mt Ruapehu a little over four hours from Auckland and Wellington, it is the perfect opportunity for visitors to trade in the busy city life in the Big Smoke for more unique and natural landscapes. For those wanting to simply get away for the day, Whakapapa and Turoa are a short drive from Hamilton, Taupo and Palmerston North.
No matter if you’re a skier or snowboarder or simply looking to relax, we are positive heading to Mt Ruapehu will be high on everyone’s agenda for a fantastic and unforgettable holiday.