I’m jaded from optimism of blue sky days at Ruapehu. Years of experience seeing weather forecasts for blue sky and then driving to Ruapehu and experiencing the opposite has taught me a few lessons. Although skiing Mount Ruapehu (Turoa & Whakapapa ski fields) is achievable as a day trip from our home in Rotorua it is much more enjoyable when staying the night in Ohakune, that way we can put our feet up in front of the fire without having to endure the drive home at the end of the day. But with the weather changing rapidly then one’s well laid plans and dreams for two days of clear blue skies and delightful skiing can change!
I’ve decided Ruapehu has three different personalities and here are my recommendations to enjoy each:
“DREAMY” – When the weather is on, the skiing is amazing!
A crisp clear day on Turoa or Whakapapa ski fields is unbelievable, the terrain that is produced from a ski area sitting on top of an active volcano is truly amazing: little gullies, drops, valleys and rocks to play with are scattered all over the place on either side of groomed runs. You discover on each run a different way down the hill or a fun new feature to play with on your way to the bottom. Turoa provides wider faster and more open runs to the bottom, the more you venture off piste the more you’ll find. Whakapapa by comparison provides tighter turns, narrower runs and more varied terrain off piste. And for the more adventurous a shorter walk up to the volcanic crater.
Get there early to enjoy some “fresh” tracks from the morning groomed runs.
“DIDN’T EXPECT THIS” – Bad weather isn’t always bad weather
Although waking to bad weather and poor visibility on the snow camera’s, it is always worth giving Mt Ruapehu a chance to prove herself and talk to the locals what’s going on. Given half a chance the weather could turn and provide you with a great day, or not !
“GO BIKING!” – Bad Ruapehu weather can still mean heaps of enjoyment at the bottom of the mountain.
There is no debate that when the clouds roll in, the rain starts and you are unable to see the skis attached to your own feet that both ski areas are no fun. In skis areas like North America when visibility is poor you can follow discernable features or contours like trees. However, there is nothing on North Island ski fields which are going to help when mother nature has her way. Better to avoid some damage to your body by staying away.
Therefore, head down the mountain to regain visibility below the clouds and get yourself sorted for a day of biking or walking on the host of amazing trails around Ohakune and National Park. Although you might still get wet, being wet on the bike is fine, but wet on skis is not!
Activities to do when Turoa and Whakapapa are closed or the weather is poor:
We asked Greg, a mountain bike guide from RAG2E, what he does during the winter when the mountain is closed: “This area is so used to rain but the volcanic soil means the water drains quickly and the trails are still in great condition for mountain bike riding. In fact I go out almost every day”. Greg did add that if the temperature at National Park or Ohakune is around 10deg or more then you can easily ride with typical outdoor sports gear. When it gets colder than that you’ll need to get some gloves and some warmer gear to keep your extremities warm, although if you’ve come prepared for skiing you’ll have pretty much everything you’ll need.
Greg’s recommendation for mountain bike trails during winter:
- Local mountain bike park in National Park within a pine forest. A combination of volcanic soil and loose pine needles keeps the trail in great condition. It’s been developed by a few keen local and it’s well maintained, including having the pine needles raked over often.
- Fishers Track (National Park) – it’s an old access road so it’s got good drainage. Greg even took his (almost) 70yr old mother on the trail.
- Old Coach Road (Ohakune) – There are a few muddy patches but the council has spread plenty of gravel and keep the trail in good shape.
- 42 Traverse (National Park) – There are a couple of stream crossings and with high rainfall it can be impassable. It’s use of a guide like Greg, or check with locals to ensure you don’t get an unpleasant surprise and have to turn back.
- Bridge to Nowhere, with a jetboat ride (National Park) – Good trail in most conditions with parts being gravel, but can still get muddy in the wet. The jet boat operates all year round.
Image – Greg From Rag2E mountain bike guides
Image – Jet boat ride at the end of the Bridge to Nowhere trail
- Old Coach Road (Ohakune) – There are a few muddy patches but the council has spread plenty of gravel and keep the trail in good shape, the massive viaduct near the Ohakune end of the trail is an amazing sight to see.
- Jubilee Walkway (Ohakune) – Starting at the giant carrot at the Southeastern end of Ohakune township, the Jubilee Walkway winds its way through native bush, making an easy 20 minute stroll. It can also be linked up with the
- Waitonga Falls Track (Ohakune) – 11kms out of Ohakune up the Ohakune Mountain Road sits this gem of a track for all levels of fitness with a return journey of just over 4kms. The 39 m Waitonga Falls is Tongariro National Park’s highest waterfall.
- Taranaki Falls (Whakapapa) – Begins 100 metres below Whakapapa Visitor Centre at Ngauruhoe Place. The upper and lower tracks form a loop with the 20 metre Taranaki Falls situated around the half-way point. Loops track is 6km total.
~Written by Clement and James
Good to know:
- You’ll be lucky to have two days in a row of good skiing at Ruapehu. Be prepared for other great biking activities in the area.
- Worried about cancellation policy if you’re renting? It’s common for full refund of any days both Turoa and Whakapapa are closed, be sure to check the specific cancellation policies of the business you are booking with.
- Stay safe and use a guide – Greg from Rag2E guides all year round. He’ll also share his local knowledge and rich history of the region, ensure you make good time to meet a shuttle or jet boat to transport you, plus some good humour along the way.
- Great businesses in the area available to book on Leap: