Mt Ruapehu rules for the best lift pass value downunder at just $NZD84 for a weekday adult pass all season at mighty Whakapapa and Tūroa, the North Island’s big mountain twins.
That’s about $AUD77 – or only around 40% of what you will pay for a day pass at any of the big 5 Aussie ski resorts. Those savings will go a long way to paying for your airfares.
It’s also well under the $NZD139 for a day pass at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables or Mt Hutt in the South Island.
For all those not in easy enough drive to the snow distance to make Epic Australia Passes or Buller or Thredbo season passes feasible, or anyone who won’t ski more than a few days a season anyway, it’s more than time to put the North Island’s ‘Twin Peaks’ on your radar, for a season that kicks on to late October.
The season kicks in a little later than at the South Island fields, but then kicks on longer. From late July to late October is prime time.
The mid-September slush fest in OZ puts most people off even thinking about skiing then, never mind October. But Ruapehu’s extra altititude – 2,797m – means it gets more snow later that lasts longer.
Spring is in fact the perfect time to visit. For families October school holidays are definitely worthwhile.
For back and side country enthusiasts too epic Ruapahu lines are available by hiking up to the crater rim at Tūroa, or around the crater lake from Whakapapa. These open up endless spectacular opportunities and up to 1200m+ vertical.
It’s some of the most accessible big mountain skiing anywhere.
But for most resort skiers and riders there is more than enough across the twin resort’s 1500ha, as the trail maps show.
Whakapapa is slightly larger, on Mt Ruapehu’s north-western side, accessible via State Highway 48. It boasts the country’s premier beginner facility, Happy Valley, where you can learn to ski and ride in the fully self-contained learners’ area, free of advanced skiers and riders.
More advanced skiers and riders explore everything from cruisy groomers to exhilarating chutes, bumps & drops, made even more exciting by the natural volcanic terrain.
Installed in 2019, the iconic Sky Waka gondola is the hero of the ski field and arguably the best lift in NZ. Travel from 1630m to 2020m in relative luxury.
Stay in luxury at Chateau Tongariro at the foot of the 8km access road, or nearby National Park Village for cheap and freindly options.
Tūroa has historically been referred to as the ‘dark side’ of the mountain. Tūroa sits on the southwest side, 20km from the main base town of Ohakune with a wide range of accommodation, pumping aprés, and great restaurants too.
Tūroa has a more wide-open feel to it, with eight lifts and a bigger vertical at 720m. The High Noon Express takes you to the NZ’s highest lifted point, with panoramic views of the North Island. Tūroa is also famous for its natural features, which include long halfpipe-like bowls, sweet kickers, and smooth, wide-open slopes.
Dress warm in the mornings as the first rays of light that appear around the mountain summit will not touch the slopes until mid-late morning. Locals rejoice as much of the landscape resembles frozen waves that last well into the spring, making for epic freeride skiing and riding, ripping up plenty of gullies, drops, and natural hits.
Tūroa is also well known for its slopestyle park offering, with the Tūroa Parks crew developing a solid reputation within the industry, solidified when they took home the coveted ‘Battle of the Parks’ title two years in a row. The crew offer world class terrain parks from the top of the mountain to the bottom, catering for all levels, from easy flat boxes to big kickers and rails.
Getting There: It’s an easy 4 hour’s drive from either Auckland or Wellington.
Tips: Take advantage of the all season weekday pass deal and check out surrounding attractions on weekends. The tourist hotspots of Taupo, Tauranga and Rotorua are not far away. Or scoot down to the east coast and check out the wineries around Hawke’s Bay..
For local tourism info and tips check Visit Ruapehu