Mt Ruapehu is the largest of three volcanoes rising above the rugged terrain of Central Plateau in the heart of the North Island. Visitors come to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountain year-round, but particularly so when it is blanketed in a thick layer of snow.
The area is a top destination for ski and snowboard afficionados, who flock to Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields during the winter months. Whakapapa has the largest ski area in the country, while Turoa boasts a massive 722m vertical descent reached by the ‘High Noon Express’ chairlift. Both ski fields offer something for everyone – terrain parks, huge basins, steep chutes, drop-offs, and excellent learner facilities. Access is via the best ski field roads in the country, with two lanes sealed all the way to the top.
Mt Ruapehu is at the centre of Tongariro National Park, which was gifted to the nation by Māori chief Te Heuheu Tūkino in 1887. The area is now listed by UNESCO as a dual World Heritage Site for its cultural and natural significance. The diverse landscape includes tussocked desert, scree slopes, native bush, emerald lakes, hot springs, and icy streams filled with rainbow trout. The region is a haven for those that love the great outdoors.
We definitely recommend hiring a car if you are flying into Auckland, Wellington, or Rotorua. The drive to Mt Ruapehu is uncomplicated, and you will need a vehicle to get around.
5 More Reasons to Choose Mt Ruapehu
1. Movie locations – see where Sir Peter Jackson filmed the scenes for Mt Doom and Mordor in his Lord of the Rings trilogy.
2. Tukino – a club-operated ski field on the eastern slopes of the mountain. Think less crowds, more friendly camaraderie, and a log fire in the cafe to warm up after cavorting in the snow.
3. Tongariro Alpine Crossing – this world-renowned walk can be undertaken in winter, with the right guidance and gear. The snow adds an extra dimension of adventure.
4. Mountain biking – a veritable abundance of tracks are available traversing lunar-like landscapes, disused logging tracks, and native bush.
5. Forgotten World Highway – take a drive to northern Ruapehu and travel the remote and mysterious 150km road that was built on colonial bridle paths formed in the late 19th century.
Where to Stay
Located at the start of the access road to Whakapapa ski field, the village is a great place to stay if you you’re keen to be close to the action. Shuttle buses run to and from the ski field, and there are a handful of options available for accommodation. Most distinctive of these is the grand Chateau Tongariro – constructed in 1929, it offers a luxury stay as well as several restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Just a 10 minute drive from Whakapapa Village you will find a larger range of choice for accommodation in National Park. The little town buzzes with visitors, and shuttles run to both Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas.
The township of Ohakune is closest to the Turoa ski area (and is the ‘carrot capital’ of New Zealand – fun fact!). Well-equipped with accommodation, restaurants, and retailers, it’s a fantastic base for your ski holiday. Catch a scenic flight from the local airstrip for unparallelled views of the mountains and surrounding region.
For a ski holiday with a fantastic range of off-mountain activities added to the mix, Taupō is the place to stay. Head up the mountain for a day in the snow, then spend time enjoying some of the other opportunities for leisure – hot pools, fishing, jetboating, skydiving, a scenic lake cruise…