THE MAGIC OF THE RUAPEHU REGION
The Ruapehu region of New Zealand is a spectacular vision in the North Island.
The three volcanic peaks of Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe interrupt an otherwise flat, sparse and desert-like region.
These three peaks form part of what’s known as the Taupo Volcanic Zone and part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. It’s the sight of this dramatic volcanic landscape that makes me draw a sharp intake of breath each time I arrive.
And that’s usually most weekends during winter – as Mt Ruapehu is our ‘home’ ski field, about 4.5 hours drive south from our base in Auckland.
We love skiing and snowboarding at Mt Ruapehu so much, that both John and I are Life Pass holders – meaning we paid a reasonably exorbitant amount upfront for a ski pass which now lasts the rest of our lives. It’ll pay for itself after a few more seasons.
So what makes this ski field so special?
Here are our top reasons to ski at Mt Ruapehu.
18 REASONS TO SKI AT MT RUAPEHU
THREE SKI FIELDS
Weather looking a bit rubbish at Turoa? No worries, check out what Whakapapa’s doing, on the other side. Keen to beat the crowds? Head to the smaller club field Tukino on the eastern slopes.
Mt Ruapehu is made up of two main commercial ski fields, Turoa and Whakapapa. Your mountain pass works for both fields. Each have their own charms – although Turoa has better lift infrastructure, while Whakapapa has more t-bars.
A little further around the corner is Tukino, a club ski field on Ruapehu. It’s not as developed so the day passes are cheaper but you’ll find plenty of freshies and uncrowded slopes.
BRAGGING RIGHTS FOR SKIING ON AN ACTIVE VOLCANO
Yep, Mt Ruapehu is an active volcano! While it hasn’t been rumbling lately, and the alert code mostly stays in Green, it has had a bit of a smokey past. You can tell all your mates back home you got to ski or board down an active volcano.
Hurrah! You can do night skiing at Mt Ruapehu! Open on Friday and Saturday nights from 5-9pm only at Whakapapa. It’s been great to drive down from Auckland on a Friday afternoon and start the weekend with a few hours of night skiing.
Other than Coronet Peak in Queenstown, Whakapapa is the only other major commercial ski field to offer night skiing in New Zealand.
From Mt Ruapehu, you’ll get stunning vistas of the Central Plateau. In some ways, Mt Ruapehu is like a blob of white icing on an otherwise undecorated flan – the surrounding area is rarely blanketed in snow, apart from when the odd winter storm whirls through.
And how about those incredible pinnacles? For a brief moment, you could be mistaken for being in the Swiss Alps.
Hate having to ski down to the bottom just for a coffee or lunch break? Don’t worry, you’ll find food and coffee options further up the mountain on both ski fields, so you don’t have to head to base for an energy boost.
Feel like racing? Throughout winter there are constantly races and competitions being held on the mountain for skiers, snowboarders and freestylers. Or you could be like us and grab a hot drink and just watch.
One of the beautiful things about snowboarding and skiing at Mt Ruapehu is the very high chance of bluebird days. Just don’t forget your sunscreen – especially if you’re throwing a sickie from work. Your goggle marks will be a tell-tale sign of a day of anything but bedrest.
CAT SKIING TUKINO
Tukino, the little club field on Ruapehu, is the only place on the mountain which offers cat skiing. For a pretty reasonably NZD$35 you’ll be taken up to the top of Tukino to enjoy 300 vertical metres per run. Think bowls and ridges where no one else has been that day and a semi-guided trip down the best runs on the field.
Both Turoa and Whakapapa have extensive beginner and learner areas at the bottom – ideal for families and kids of all ages. Happy Valley Snow Park on Whakapapa is known as one of the best beginner areas in New Zealand.
AMAZING NIGHT SKY
Located in the heart of the North Island, Mt Ruapehu is hours away from any major city, meaning there’s little light pollution to disrupt the sky. Head to the Mounds walk on the way down from Whakapapa for a beautiful night sky view above the mountains.
SPRING SKIING & BOARDING
Spring is for skiing! Mt Ruapehu often has an extended season compared to the South Island’s ski fields, and a late snowfall can even keep it going through to Snovember. Spring skiing and snowboarding at Ruapehu means gorgeous bluebird days and being warm enough for one layer and a vest – and maybe even some sun bathing if you’re really keen.
Kiwis are friendly. I’m not being biased – but we are a pretty friendly bunch. And the lifties here have fabulous attitudes. They’ll start your day right with a bright smile, lots of enthusiasm and a feel-good attitude, all the while watching everyone else have a good time on the slopes. What troopers. Let’s hear it for the lifties!
Okay, okay, you’ve got to strike it lucky for powder days – New Zealand isn’t really famous for its pow. But when it comes – boy is it epic! When it’s fresh, get up the top and head out to the far sides of the ski field for fresh tracks.
SNOW FILLED BASINS
Remember those powder days we mentioned? On those days you’ll love heading down into the snow-filled basins, leaving a trail of snowdust behind you. Heaven.
SNOWSPORTS FOR ALL LEVELS
Mt Ruapehu offers a variety of snowsport packages to cater for all levels. Whether you’re a first-timer just wanting to stand up straight, or a confident skier/boarder looking to advance into expert territory, Mt Ruapehu’s snow school has group and private lessons available for all.
Keen for some freestyle action? Both Whakapapa and Turoa have dedicated terrain parks with rails, boxes and XL jumps.
We talked about how great the lifties are at Mt Ruapehu. It’s not just them who have great attitudes – it’s everyone in the nearby towns too. Everyone puts on a fabulous welcome, no matter who you are.
VARIETY OF ACCOMMODATION
There’s a ton of accommodation available if you’re snowboarding or skiing at Mt Ruapehu. If you join a ski club, you can stay in the club’s ski lodges, including the on-mountain lodges at Whakapapa.
If you’re skiing at Whakapapa, look for accommodation in the National Park, such as the splendid and iconic Chateau Tongariro.
If you’re staying Turoa side, the main ski town is Ohakune, but Rangataua and Raetihi are 5-10min drive away if you can’t find anything in town. The New World in Ohakune is the closest supermarket and is open til 8pm or 9pm most nights.
And there’s always Airbnb – which we use all the time. If you’re new to Airbnb, grab $30 off your first trip when you sign up through this link.
DISCUSS: What are your favourite reasons to ski at Mt Ruapehu?
LIKE IT? PIN IT!