Win­ter thrills

Breath­tak­ing scenery and ex­cel­lent snow are just two of the things that will delight snow en­thu­si­asts at Mt Ruapehu.

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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.

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