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A must read first-timers guide to Mt Ruapehu, Whakapapa and Turoa

July 29, 2020 7 min read

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A must read first-timers guide to Mt Ruapehu, Whakapapa and Turoa

We have had a lot of customers visiting us who are new to the snow - and are struggling to find basic information about how the mountain operates and the processes of actually getting up the mountain and organized for a great day


So for your convenience, we have put together an article for anyone who plans of visiting one of the ski fields to either snow-play, ski or snowboard and to make sure your day runs as faultless as possible. If you're familiar with everything in this article - you're good to go!

FIRST TIME?

If this is your first time to Mt Ruapehu, Whakapapa, or Turoa please read become familiar with what we list out below. It will make your trip so much better!

Gone are the days of just driving to the mountain and expecting to drive up the road and park…to avoid disappointment you NEED to PLAN your visit in advance, whether you are skiing and boarding or just playing or sightseeing.

First of all CHECK the mountain conditions and weather 

https://www.mtruapehu.com/whakapapa/report and https://www.mtruapehu.com/turoa/report is the BEST and ONLY place to get the snow, lifts, and road updates. The first update is at 6:30am daily, updated regularly during the day as conditions change.

https://www.metservice.com/mountains-and-parks/national-parks/tongariro the official NZ Govt weather agency with the most accurate and truthful weather information.

ROADS and PARKING

The Bruce Road [Whakapapa Skifield] and the Ohakune Mountain Road [Turoa Skifield] are controlled by the skifield operator Ruapehu Alpine Lifts [RAL] during the winter.

RAL is the only body that determines whether the road will be -

  • OPEN [to all traffic], or
  • RESTRICTED [to 4WD vehicles or 2WD vehicles with chains, or both],or,
  • CLOSED [to all traffic].

If the road conditions are icy and dangerous they may make it RESTRICTED in which case they will enforce the use of 4WD vehicles and or 2WD vehicles with chains, or both.

They may CLOSE the road if it it very severe conditions such as a blizzard or gale force winds or both.

Restrictions and closures are particularly common during June, July & August

The only place to find out the road status [open, closed, restricted] is here:

https://www.mtruapehu.com/whakapapa/report and https://www.mtruapehu.com/turoa/report

Both are updated very regularly throughout the day.

The first update is at 6:30am every day.

From June 2020 you MUST BOOK a CARPARK if you want to take your vehicle up the mountain roads on a SATURDAY or a SUNDAY. This can only be done online HERE. At the same time make sure you have the correct vehicle for the road conditions. This means if the road is restricted having either a 4WD vehicle or have a set of snow chains if your vehicle is 2WD. Sometimes you need both! Sometimes there is no restriction.Check before departure. Check the status of the road regularly on a daily basis so you get a feel for what you could be in for.

If you need snow chains you need to buy them before your trip. Repco and Supercheap Auto sell them in the larger centres, we sell them here at Snowscene – 357 Puanga St Tokaanu. Check availability first! Car chains only $145, Ute and large commercial chains only $265. Don’t scramble around on the day looking for chains – they may not be available in the district.

Snow chain rental – there is NO snow chain rental availability anywhere in the district – you need to plan your visit and ensure you have snow chains organized before your visit. 

You will NOT be able to park if you have not secured a booking. You will be turned around.

There is NO day parking available at Whakapapa Village [where the Chateau Tongariro is]. You will be fined for leaving your car in the parking spaces for longer than 3 hours.

There is NO shuttle service available from Whakapapa Village [where the Chateau Tongariro is] to the skifield.

The only all-day parking for Whakapapa Skifield [if all parking spaces are booked out] is at National Park Village a further 15km away from the skifield

If the carparks are full the only option is to go to National Park Village and try and get a shuttle to the skifield, however, this may be difficult on a busy day due to demand so to avoid disappointment and queues, you need to PLAN and BOOK in advance.

 

SHUTTLES

The skifield operator RAL is not running a shuttle service from National Park Village for 2020.

There are some private shuttle operators that operate skifield shuttles from the National Park Village PARK n RIDE carpark – Click here for options. Most charge around $30 pp return.

Shuttles will be at very peak demand during weekends and school holidays – PLAN and BOOK your shuttle early to avoid disappointment.

The National Park Village "Park n Ride" facility is a public carpark developed by RAL as the alternative to parking up on the mountain. It is on the corner of Findlay St and Station Road at National Park Village [next to the Railway Station]. RALs shuttles and most private shuttles operate from here.

There is NO shuttle service available from Whakapapa Village [where the Chateau Tongariro is] to the skifield.

For a complete list of all bookable shuttles, please read our shuttles article

 

ONCE YOU ARRIVE AT THE SKIFIELD

TICKETING and PASSES

There is very limited customer service counters at both skifields for 2020.

The best and quickest option is to buy your pass online HERE. Once you have purchased your pass you will get an email confirmation via email. Embedded in the email will be a QR code. Once you get to the base area of the skifield you go to any one of the self-service kiosks, scan your QR code, and your plastic card pass will be produced from the machine. You use this card pass to then use the lifts for the rest of the day.

RAL run a NO CASH policy for all purchases including the cafes, restaurants so make sure you have an eftpos or credit card on you.

 

SNOW PLAY and SLEDDING

Mt Ruapehu is but one part of the Tongariro National Park and so you are able to play in the snow anywhere away from the skifield and ski runs – you can play and sled around the carparks or non ski areas. Anywhere you can find a slope or hill go for it – lots of family fun.

We have sleds here at Snowscene for this purpose. Pop in and grab a couple before heading up.

RAL have a dedicated sledding area at Happy Valley which has a return elevator. The price to use the RAL sledding area is $22 per hour per adult or $17 per hour for children. You will be given an RAL sled to use.

You cannot take our sleds to the Happy Valley sledding area.

The public are not allowed on the Happy Valley ski runs for play or sightseeing.

You cannot take our sleds on the Sky Waka Gondola.

 

SIGHTSEEING

As described above, sightseeing and wandering is all ok so long as you are not on any of the dedicated ski runs or lifts. It is a National Park and the public are allowed to explore and sightsee at most places.

A must-do is the Sky Waka Gondola which takes you to NZs highest restaurant. It is about a 10min trip one way. Once at the top you can take in the views and/or have lunch or a snack in one of two eateries. Highly recommend. Adults $49, Youth + Child $29, Infants 0-4 Free.

You cannot take a sled on the gondola so you will need to take it back to your car.

 

CLOTHING

Remember, you are on a mountain and it is 1600m above sea level at the base area. NZ weather conditions can change very quickly from a beautiful bluebird day to closed in and windy conditions within a few hours. BE PREPARED.

Layers is the key. Warm undergarments to start, then say a shirt, jersey, and jacket. Extras include scarf, beanie and gloves. Good walking or snow boots are a must…nothing worse than wet feet after playing in the snow.

Eye protection is essential – make sure you have good quality glasses or goggles and always use sunscreen – the UV rays are harsh – they reflect off the snow and can cause skin damage where you least expect it.

It can also get quite warm some days, especially from September onwards.

Being prepared is the key.

Snowscene has a great range of rental clothing and boots – perfect for your sightseeing or playing trip to the mountain.

Pick up your clothing, boots, and sleds before heading up, so you are warm and cozy as you get out the car into the mountain air. 

TIPS and TRICKS

Saturdays are always overcrowded! Why not plan for a Sunday trip? It seems everyone wants to go up to Mt Ruapehu on a Saturday for reasons unknown! Sunday is always less crowded and a better snow experience.

Even better – do your skiing, boarding and sightseeing etc midweek. Much less crowds and no need to book a carpark. You still need to be prepared for adverse road conditions, but way less stress, and you also get cheaper ski passes. 

Remember

RAL made a lot of their 2020 operating decisions back when we were in COVID 19 levels 3 and 4. At that time they had to plan for staffing and operating constraints which affected their ability to run at maximum capacity this year. We think they are doing their best during this worldwide pandemic [luckily we are only at Level 1] and so enjoy what there is to offer...put it into perspective with the rest of the world...we are still able to enjoy freedom of movement and activities in our country, so just being on Mt Ruapehu is greatness in itself...

And so to summarise…

  • PLAN – your trip…at least a few days in advance
  • CHECK – weather, snow conditions/level, road conditions – do this daily so you get a feel for the conditions and the restrictions required
  • DECIDE – 4WD or snow chains [buy chains if required, or we can hold a set for you on request]. If the weather has been good for a few days then the road could well be OPEN to ALL traffic in which case you don't need chains or 4WD. CHECK the road status regularly.
  • BOOK – car park or shuttle.
  • RENT/HIRE – ski gear, snowboard gear, clothing, helmets, goggles, gloves, walk boots, sleds - Snowscene has the best prices and excellent service.
  • PAY – for skiing/boarding, sightseeing, sledding.
Most of all - ENJOY our beautiful Tongariro National Park!

 

Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer


1 Response

Eskay
Eskay

July 31, 2020

Awesome piece of information put together – nice and easy to refer. Thanks :)

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