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Snowscene Help Guide for Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu

2020 UPDATED:

Make the most out of your trip to Whakapapa Ski Field!

 

About:


Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu - is approx 40 minutes drive from our shop in Turangi. Operating times are 9AM to 4PM from June to October. Whakapapa is known for its excellent beginner facility - Happy Valley, which is perfect for your first time ski and boarders.


View Trail Map

Whakapapa trail map

 

Ski passes

Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu, has a range of ski passes that allow you to access either just the beginner area or the whole mountain. These differ in pricing, along with the sightseeing pass for the Skywaka gondola

All passes need to be brought ONLINE at Mt Ruapehu.com. This is the quickest way to get them. Once you have paid for them online, you will receive a confirmation email with a QR code. Scan this code on their self-serve ticket kiosks at the base of the mountain to collect your passes

Remember to purchase the mid-week passes if your skiing Monday to Friday to save some extra dollars.

Season passes are available from October, and will raise in price every month until the next year’s ski season in June. A great way to maximize your ski dollar is to purchase early bird season passes in October. These usually go for $400 for an adult, & $250 for a child. This equates to about 3 days of skiing before you ski for free for the rest of the season! A great deal to be had! Plus you get amazing perks like half-price passes for friends and discounts on retail and food.


Lift Pass Full Week Pass Mid Week Pass
Adult All Mountain $149 $129
Child All Mountain $89 $79
Adult Beginners Area $95 $95
Child Beginners Area $75 $75



 

Ski rental options

Mt Ruapehu does have a on-mountain rental option, but we HIGHLY recommend you pick up all your rental skis, boards, and clothing from one of the local ski-shops that can be found in your mountain town.

WHY? It’s much cheaper, heaps quicker to get fitted out (usually less than 20 mins compared to 1 ½ hours on-mountain during busy times). Plus you receive lots of local knowledge on preparing for the ski field, and the conditions of the day BEFORE you head up. This local knowledge is GOLD, especially for first-timers to the snow, and can often make or break your day.

To make sure your ski holiday goes as smoothly as possible, we recommend visiting SNOWSCENE SKI AND BOARD for all your ski, boarding, and snow-play gear needs!

 

Getting up there

The BRUCE ROAD is the Whakapapa access road that takes you to the base of the ski area. Its fully paved and suitable for any car - no matter how big or small.


Estimated travel times:

Auckland & Wellington: 4 ½ Hours
Taupo: 1 ½ Hours
Tauranga: 3 ½ Hours
Hawkes Bay: 3 ¼ Hours
Turangi: 40 mins
Ohakune: 60 mins
National Park Township: 20 mins


Mountain Road accessibility

Make sure to check the DAILY MOUNTAIN REPORT for WHAKAPAPA, BEFORE YOU TRAVEL! This is paramount to making sure you can access the mountain safely. The status of road accessibility changes daily.


Carparking


There are 1800 carparks at the base area of Whakapapa ski field. As long as road restrictions are clear, you are fine to drive your car up to the carparks and park there for the day.

If you are traveling to the skifield on a Saturday or Sunday, YOU MUST PRE-BOOK a carpark before you arrive. In order to not miss out on these limited weekend parks, you will need to pre-book as early as possible. The carparking availability is released in TWO waves. The first wave is at 10AM WEDNESDAY and the SECOND is at 6PM WEDNESDAY for the following weekend.

You will need to select your arrival time, day, and what field you will be accessing. This is all done at Mtruapehu.com/parking. We recommend booking a later carpark than early - as your carpark will be released if you arrive after the time you entered online, but you can show up EARLY for a later carpark arrival time.


Road restrictions: 4WD or not?

If there is snow or ice buildup from a frosty morning - or snowfall the night before, the road may become restricted to only certain vehicles.

Typically, if there is a road restriction, it will mean you MUST have either a 4WD car or AWD car, or a 2WD car with chains. You won’t know the road restrictions until the road report is released at 7 AM on the day. You can find this at mtruapehu.com/whakapapa/report

If you had planned to drive up in a 2WD car, and suddenly you are not able to due to the restriction on the road - not to fear! You can usually purchase chains from local mountain shops, such as Snowscene Ski and Board in Turangi. If you are not comfortable with driving in chains - then booking a shuttle is going to be your next best option


Shuttle options

There are many shuttle companies that operate throughout the winter season - allowing you to easily access Whakapapa when road restrictions are in place.

Most people will drive to the nearby town of National Park Village, park their car at the park n ride facility there, and catch up a shuttle from there. The shuttle journey is 20mins There are also shuttles that will transport you from the local mountain towns to the ski area.

We have compiled a list of all shuttle operators for you to choose from. We highly recommend booking in advance. If the weather is looking marginal for Saturdays, then we recommend you book your shuttle the Friday night before, or first thing Saturday morning when we know what the road restrictions are for that day.

 

 

What to expect

Let discuss what to expect once you reach Whakapapa. There are a number of facilities to make your stay for enjoyable, and some great ski-lifts and terrain for you to explore.


Weather Conditions

The weather at Mt Ruapehu can change very quickly and is known for its strong winds that whip over the mountain. Always be prepared with the gear so you are good for any situation. Even on a hot, spring day conditions can change relatively quickly. Before you go, it could be a good idea to check out 'Mt Ruapehu Essentials' Checklist to make sure you have everything packed, and double-check the metservice website for weather conditions 

Happy Valley

This is Mt Ruapehu’s premiere learners ski slope. It contains a mixture of chairlifts and carpet lifts to make your learning experience as enjoyable as possible. This is also where all beginner’s lessons will operate from.

Lifts include
  • double happy chairlift, and TWO carpet lifts.
Lessons can be brought from mtruapehu.com, and will all take place in this area

Happy valley has its own building complete with a large cafe, toilets, storage area, and lesson ski rentals.


Rest of the mountain

The rest of the mountain can be accessed with the FULL mountain pass. This will allow you to access 100% of the ski-able terrain at Whakapapa. 

 

Terrain
  • Terrain: 25% beginner, 50% intermediate and 25% advanced
Lifts (in order from the base to the highest elevation)
  • Rangatira Quad chair: Allows access to the rockgarden beginner to intermediate run

  • Sky Waka Gondola: Allows access to intermediate & advanced runs at the top of the mountain, the waterfall intermediate run, and sightseeing at the knoll ridge cafe

  • Delta Quad chair: A great beginner to intermediate run

  • Valley & knoll T-bars: Whakapapa's highest elevation t-bars, opening up a range of intermediate to advanced trails

  • Far West t-bar and Quad chair: A favorite for local skiers and boarders. These lifts open up a range of intermediate and advanced, on the trail and off-piste trails

Food options

There are TWO cafe’s with a range of food options for you to choose from (excluding happy valley bistro)
  • Lorenzo’s cafe: Situated at the base of Whakapapa, this cafe has a full menu and drinks available all day long.
  • Knoll Ridge cafe: Only accessible via a sightseeing pass on the Skywaka, this facility boasts NZ highest eatery - with 3 dining areas to choose from ranging from a restaurant dining experience to quick eats for a good price. This is definitely a must do for all visiting Whakapapa

Other facilities

  • Retail and rental stores

  • Toilets situated throughout the ski-field, with the best place for this being the cafes

  • Customer service center for all inquiries. This building is found at the base of Mt Ruapehu, below the Lorenzo’s Cafe


Sightseeing / Sledding

A great day trip option for yourself, family or friends it to experience the snow at Whakapapa. If you don’t want to ski or snowboard, how about a sledding day and a ride of the sky waka gondola?

This activity is every increasing in popuarltiy due to its cheaper costs and less stressful experience with young kids. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Even if you are not planning on skiing or snowboarding, you still need to be prepared for a mountain environment when you decide to visit. This means having warm, waterproof layers from head to toe. We have a great checklist for you if you are unsure what to pack, and if you find you don’t have these items - it can all be rented from SNOWSCENE SKI AND BOARD for just a few dollars.

  • There are TWO options when it comes to sledding. You can pay for Mt Ruapehu’s Happy Valley purpose-built sledding area, which consists of sled rental and sled lift usage for $20 per hour. Otherwise, you can rent or bring your own sled to use ANYWHERE on the mountain, except for Happy Valley Sledding or ski runs, for FREE! This is often a popular option as there are some great spots that you can ‘free sled’ at. Visit snowscene for SLED rental. Only $10 a day, and we will let you know all the best spots to take your sled and have the best time!

  • Lastly, don’t forget to take a trip up the SKY WAKA gondola. The views from the ride up and the cafe up the top are phenomenal. The views are literally as far as the eye can see. You don’t want to miss out on this. Make sure to buy your Skywaka ride tickets online beforehand
Lift Pass Skywaka pass Sledding pass (1hr)
Adult Single $49 $22
Child Single $29 $17
Family (4) $135 $78


Lessons / learning to ski

Whakapapa has its own ski school that caters to all ability levels from beginners’ group lessons to advanced private lessons. This is all organized by the Mt Ruapehu resort company, so contact them for more information


Where to stay near Whakapapa

If your looking for a nice, local resort town for your snow holiday, then you can get much better than Turangi.

This mountain town is your closest option if you still want decent amenities such as tourist activities, supermarket, etc.

If you need some guidance on planning your ski holiday, we have a great article explaining all the items to plan for, and finer details to prepare for to make sure your holiday goes smoothly

Ohakune and Taupo are also good options if you prefer.

On-mountain accommodation

If your tired of the commute to Whakapapa every day for your ski-trip, why not try staying at one of the club-operated lodges on mountain?

This can be quite a exciting adventure, and you always will be first on the slopes! Although you need to be a bit more prepared than staying at your local mountain town, the community vibe and lodge life can be a great experience.


Benefits of visiting Whakapapa

  • It is the NUMBER ONE place to learn to ski, snowboard and experience the snow in the north island. It has an amazing learners area that will have you improving your skills day in and day out
  • Its pretty well organised. As long as you have your carpark booked, rentals sorted BEFORE you arrive and are familiar with checking the Mt Ruapehu Whakapapa Report - then your journey and experience up the maunga should be pretty stress free and enjoyable
  • The Skywaka gondola is a amazing experience for both skiers and visitors. It features world class views, and a cafe experience at the top like no other. Great for NZ families and tourists alike.
  • Access to the mountain is pretty easy. Its a tarmac road all the way to the top, and as long as the road has no restrictions - its a super safe and easy drive.

Shortcomings of visiting Whakapapa

  • It can be expensive. Although you can mitigate this by purchasing a season pass, and organizing rentals off-mountain at a cheaper local shop, the costs of operating lifts, cafe’s and facilities in a mountain environment can be expensive - hence reflected in their ski-pass price.
  • Weekend crowds. Specifically, Saturday weekend crowds. Saturdays, no matter the weather, are usually pretty busy to the point that the ski-field can reach capacity. If you only have the option of Saturdays, then just be prepared for an early start to the morning, and slightly longer lift waits. Although if your just going to visit for a sled and a coffee, then there’s no need to worry about this if you have your rentals, passes and carpark sorted.

LOCAL SECRETS!

  • When selecting where to park once you get to the top of the bruce road, we recommend that if daypark's 1-3 are full, you then select the daypark with the 'BUS PICKUP' flag. This is where the roaming bus is guaranteed to stop and pickup people to take them to the base. If your not a fan of walking with all your ski gear, we recommend this tip.

  • If you are after a great beginners run, but want to avoid the crowds - we recommend the 'Delta' chair which is a green run, but without the usual queues. You will need a full mountain pass to access this chair, and the return runs may be a bit tricky so you may want to take the gondola back to base

  • Once we have a good snow covering at Whakapapa, there are a few good sledding spots you can go to without needing to pay. These are around the base area - behind the customer service building, and to the left of the Gondola loading area. Side note, these are not facilitated by RAL, and you will need to sled at your own risk. Sled's can be rented from us for $10 a day.

 OUR FAVORITE RUNS:

  • Beginner / intermediate: Delta Chair Turtle Run. Open easy run with less queues.

  • Intermediate / Advanced: Really anything out west ways is great. You can pick whatever route suites your ability. Start at the top of the west, and make your way down the right side (looking down) all the way to the loading bay to the west chair. Black magic can be 'powderful' once the snow has softened up but we do recommend going with someone who knows the route as its easy to go the wrong way - which may require you to un-clip and walk back to the trail.

Have we missed anything? Please let us know of anything we can add to this list :) Happy shredding!



Other guides


whakapapa guide - snowscene ski rental
Rent skis for Mt Ruapehu with Snowscene - Book online

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