Towering above the desert in the middle of the North Island, breathtaking Mt Ruapehu is an active volcano with unimpeded, awe-inspiring views reaching all the way to the coast. As well as being an active volcano, it has two premier ski areas to choose from – Whakapapa and Tūroa, which boast magnificent terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Both ski areas can also be accessed with the one lift pass making it a seamless snow holiday.
Mt Ruapehu is an outdoor lover’s playground all year round, but with its winter coat, it truly is a sight to behold. It’s situated in the Tongariro National Park - the first national park in New Zealand, and the first in the world created by gift from an indigenous people. It is recognised as a dual World Heritage Area for its outstanding natural and intangible cultural values.
Located on the north western slopes, Whakapapa is home to Australasia’s premier beginner playground, Happy Valley. A stand-alone ski area especially for beginner riders, decked out with three beginner carpet lifts, two of which are completely covered and sheltered from the elements, plus a double chairlift. Join one of the all-day lesson packages to build your confidence and skills before you embark on a journey higher up the mountain.
Whakapapa is a special place, famous for its expansive terrain (550ha of it) and incredible views. There has never been a better season to visit, with the new $25 million ‘Sky Waka’ Gondola opening this winter! This state-of-the-art, high-speed gondola has taken months to build, and features fifty Sky Waka gondola cabins with floor to ceiling glass for stunning views, internal ski racks, audio and lighting and individual leather seats - it’s like travelling in business-class luxury.
Even the tallest skiers can feel right at home and stand freely, with two metre high ceilings. Capable of transporting 2,400 passengers every hour, now everyone can have access to an incredible snow experience from 2,020 metres high.
If you don’t feel up for skiing, it’s well worth taking a trip on the Sky Waka to visit NZ’s highest restaurant, The Pinnacles, and the World’s Best Designed Café in 2015 – the Knoll Ridge Chalet. They’ve both been recently refurbished with a wide selection of options and prices to suit any budget. Here you’ll find incredible views of the central plateau, delicious menus featuring local produce, and barista made coffee. View filming locations from Lord of the Rings movies and amazing mountain scenery, including waterfalls, volcanic rock & panoramic vistas.
On the majestic southwestern slopes, Tūroa is home to huge snow bases, unique volcanic terrain and epic terrain parks. Tūroa stands tall, with New Zealand’s highest lift – High Noon Express – and a thigh-burning vertical descent of 722metres. Only 20 minutes from the lively resort town of Ohakune, Tūroa is wild, playful and mighty.
Mt Ruapehu’s winter season runs from early June until late October, and summer season can be enjoyed from November until May. The Sky Waka is available between 9am - 4pm, weather permitting with dinner options available on Friday & Saturday nights throughout the year.
When it’s time to give your legs a break from skiing and snowboarding, be sure to head out and explore what the Mt Ruapehu and Taupō regions have to offer. It’s easy to get around, thanks to shuttle services linking the surrounding towns of Ohakune (to Tūroa) and National Park Village, Turangi and Taupō (to Whakapapa).
From adventure activities such as jet boating, white water rafting and skydiving to the more relaxed rail carts and geothermal hot pools, there is something for everyone in the centre of the North Island.