In September 1887 the sacred mountain peaks, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro were gifted to the people of New Zealand by the Paramount Chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Horonuku Te Heu Heu Tukino, thus ensuring their protection for all people for all time. This gift formed the nucleus of Tongariro National Park, New Zealand's First National Park and a dual World Heritage Area.
Turoa Ski Area – once marketed as “The Giant” sits on the south-western slopes of Mt Ruapehu and has Australasia's longest vertical descent – at 720m – and New Zealand's highest lift, a six-seater high speed detachable that rises from Turoa’s mid-field area to 2322m.
The field starts at 1600m at the Alpine Meadow – a sheltered beginners' area with a 120m long carpet lift – like a conveyer belt or travelator over the snow: just stand on it and it takes you smoothly and easily up the slope. The Alpine Meadow is right next to the Alpine Chalet where you'll find good coffee, meals, snacks or a cold beer or wine after your time on the piste. For the non-skiers or boarders in the family, there's a toboggan area right alongside the Alpine Meadow.
Turoa’s intermediate trails are mostly wide and smooth, with chutes and bowls to keep it interesting. There are 12 groomed intermediate runs, all nice and long with many linked so you can enjoy excellent intermediate skiing and riding from the top of the highest lift to the base area. With 25 black and black diamond runs and two spectacular lift-accessed backcountry areas, you'll find a massive variety of terrain as an advanced skier/rider at Turoa. Head Out West to enjoy the natural half pipes and chutes through the Organ Pipes and the Solitude backcountry area or the amazing wide sweeping terrain of the Triangle and the Mangaehuehu Glacier backcountry area.
If you're into steeps Hamilton's Face offers several options as does the headwall of the Glacier. The budding big mountain skier will find an ever-changing range of natural terrain features to play on.
Season: early to mid-June, through to late October – early November, 9am - 4pm Mon-Sun
Base area: 1600m. Top station: 2322m. Vertical drop: 722m, 500 hectares of south-west aspect slopes, with 22 groomed trails, served by 8 snow groomers; 10% with snowmaking.
Access road: is 17km, 2-lane, sealed.
Terrain: 20% beginner; 55% intermediate; 25% advanced. 22 groomed
Lift facilities: total capacity: 11,300 people per hour. One 6-seater high-speed detachable, 2 triple, 2 quad chairlifts; 1 T-bar, 2 platter lifts, one conveyor lift.
On-mountain facilities: 3 cafés including one licensed; Hire centre – 950 sets skis/boots/poles; 450 sets snowboards/boots; 200 sets jackets/pants. One retail store.
Snow School: 70 instructors
Creche: for 2-5 year olds
Whakapapa Ski Area is on the north-western slopes of Mt Ruapehu and is New Zealand's largest ski area, with over 65 trails on 1050 hectares.
Whakapapa boasts New Zealand's best beginners' area in Happy Valley, right at the top of the Bruce Road – a sealed road all the way.
It's a large learner’s area in its own valley away from speeding skiers and boarders to worry about. Happy Valley has its own café, equipment hire and ski school meeting area. The gentle slope is long, giving you plenty of time to really get the hang of skiing or boarding.
A slow-moving chairlift takes you to the top of the slope, giving your legs a rest on the way. There are over 30 groomed trails ideal for intermediate skiers and boarders – especially the Rockgarden, which leads down the first chairlifts to the Top o the Bruce. This trail is one that is targeted with snowmaking, so is reliable for riding and is an easy progression up from Happy Valley. The volcanic Mt Ruapehu terrain gives a large variety of trails with bumps, chutes, drops, bowls or wide open runs.
With 24 black and black diamond runs as well as the Black Magic backcountry area – accessed by the Far West T-Bar, there is plenty of places at Whakapapa to challenge the best of the experts. The Pinnacles backcountry area is used for the increasingly popular Extreme competition in September and provides some of the most challenging terrain you'll find anywhere.
Season: mid-late June to late October, open 9am-4pm Monday to Sunday.
Base: at 1630m; highest lift point 2300m. Vertical descent 675m. Ski boundary area 550Ha (plus back-country areas). North-west aspect.
Access road: 6km, 2-lane sealed.
Terrain: Beginner, 25%; Intermediate, 50%; Advanced, 25%. Groomed Trails, 30; Snowmaking, 20%; Snow groomers, 9.
Total lift capacity: 15,000 people per hour. 7 chairlifts – 2 quad (one express), 5 double. 4 T-bars, 2 Platters, 1 Learners' rope tow. Cafes: 5 including 1 licensed.
Equipment hire: 2000 sets skis/boots/poles; 600 sets snowboards/boots; 700 sets jackets/pants; 570 sets season rental skis/boots; 145 sets season rental snowboards/boots. 1 Retail store.
Snow school: 95 instructors.