Ruapehu – Whakapapa New Zealand
Whakapapa (pronounced fukka puppa – yes you read that correctly!) is one of only two commercial ski resorts on the North Island of New Zealand. It sits in a Dual World Heritage Area, on the north-western side of Mount Ruapehu, the country’s largest active volcano, and the North Island’s highest peak at 2,797 metres.
Whakapapa, with its gorgeous views and ample snow, is complemented by Turoa
, the other commercial resort, situated on the south-western slopes of Mount Ruapehu. Both resorts are run by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts.
The ski season at Whakapapa usually runs from late June to the end of October or early November.
Mount Ruapehu Whakapapa Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Whakapapa offers some of New Zealand’s best ski and snowboard terrain. Of the 67 named runs, 25 percent are classified advanced, 50 percent intermediate, 25 percent beginner. The skiable area is an impressive 550 hectares. That’s 550 full size football pitches!
The base elevation is 1,630 metres, well above the tree line. The highest lifted point is 2,300 metres and the annual snow fall is 4 metres. There are 14 lifts, including two quads and five doubles.
Considering the terrain is treeless, there are lots of off-piste options including bowls, chutes, and lots of drops. At Whakapapa you can have a hucking good time! Freestylers are also blessed with a terrain park and halfpipe.
On the East side there is really diverse terrain thanks to volcanic eruptions and the subsequent lava rivers, and the area has spectacular views for skiers and boarders of all levels to appreciate. The West side has more open ski terrain and access to the pinnacles “Black Magic” backcountry area.
Where is Whakapapa Ski Field?
Whakapapa is an easy and scenic 4-5 hours drive from Auckland or Wellington. If you’re flying in from overseas, it’s best to rent a car in either of those places, or you can fly onwards to Taupo, the nearest airport. From there, it’s a mere 1.5 hours to Whakapapa.
The Whakapapa ski field is accessed from Whakapapa village, at the foot of the volcano. Resort access is via the toll-free, two-lane Bruce Road. The fully sealed ride is six km long, of “autobahn” quality, and must be one of the fastest mountain roads in the world!
There are members-only ski lodges at the base of the ski area (which are also open to school group bookings). Otherwise the closest place to stay is Whakapapa village, 10 minutes down Bruce Road. A little further down the road, about 20 minutes away from the ski area’s car park, is National Park Village.
Both villages offer a range of options from budget holiday parks to fancy pants accommodation. The jewel is the Bayview Chateau Tongariro
at Whakapapa Village. This luxurious hotel oozes history and tradition, with a pinch of class. It’s one of New Zealand’s most historic hotels, with unsurpassed views of the National Park’s three volcanic peaks – Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe.
All Whakapapa accommodation
areas are serviced by a shuttle service to transport skiers and boarders to and from the ski area.
Ski Resort Facilities
This Mount Ruapehu ski resort has reasonable on-mountain facilities and services including ski school, a medical centre, ski and snowboard hire, and eateries.
The highlight of the facilities is a restaurant located at Knoll Ridge, which was opened in 2010 following a devastating fire in February 2009. Sitting on the terrace, sipping a coffee, admiring The Pinnacles (an impressive rock ridge) and watching the world go by, one could be forgiven for thinking that a ski resort can’t possibly come much better than this.
Why Ski or Snowboard at Whakapapa?
Whakapapa looks the goods if:
- you have always wanted to tell your friends you have glided down the slopes of an active volcano
- you want to ski in pristine nature, and don’t care about the lack of nightlife
- you want to ski through to the end of October or early November
- you want a good value ski adventure
- you value friends and family more than glitz and glamour
- or you just like the sound of the place!