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Trip Report Our 2014 trip to Mt Ruapehu

Discussion in 'New Zealand' started by GlenH, Sep 15, 2014.

  1. GlenH

    GlenH One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

    Aug 13, 2007
    Likes Received:
    I am a bit overdue in posting this but here goes anyway…………….

    From 10 to 17 August, Ski Buddy and Self returned to Ohakune for our 4th consecutive year chancing it with the conditions to ski Mt Ruapehu. Are we gluttons for punishment or do we just know a great mountain when we eventually get to actually see it?

    With our three previous trips having produced a range of the good and the bad of Ruapehu weather we faced the lead up to our mid August trip with considerable trepidation given the slow start to the North Island season by comparison with the spectacular start at home in NSW.

    In the week before flying we even contemplated relocating our holiday to the south island, but decided to stick with Ruapehu even though the base on both sides of the mountain was barely a metre, not a lot when you have to fill in the gaps between the boulders before you can actually ski over them.

    We stayed again at the Powderhorn Lodge where we are always warmly welcomed by Annie and her team and again we shared our dinners between our three favourite restaurants, the Powderkeg, the Bearing Point and OCR café.

    The week did not start well when we lost our first day because Turoa was closed and Whakapapa had so few lifts and such a poor forecast that it was not worth trying. So we drove to the nearby Army Museum, which we had seen last year, and had a more detailed look at it this time.

    Day 2 was another closed one so we filled in our time walking along the river into town and sampling the delights of the chocolate éclair shop which is so well known that even the visitor information centre recommends them.

    Wednesday we finally made it up to Turoa. We couldn't see a thing in the low vis but at least we had the skis on.

    By the Thursday when we awoke to another day of bad weather we were starting to recognise the pattern. Often the ski fields cannot give a clear indication of whether or not they will open, or if they do open how many lifts they will run, until well into the morning, which makes it hard to know what to do and by the time you decide whether to try driving up or not, half the day is gone.

    On this day both Turoa and Whakapapa web sites indicated they were closed but we found that Tukino, a small club field on the east face, was open. We contemplated going for adventure over there, which would have involved us driving to their base camp and getting picked up by their 4WD shuttle for a day on the ‘wild side’ just for something different, albeit with only one tow operating.

    However within 20 minutes of their previous advice, their web site changed to say they were closed, so we are sure glad we didn’t just set off to go there without checking again. Instead Thursday was spent on a local forest walk and an earlier than usual dip in the lodge pool.

    We were rapidly coming to the conclusion that this would be our last trip to Mt Ruapehu. We know the mountain has very unpredictable weather but after 3 closed days out of 4 it was testing our patience as we tried to stay positive and not read the Perisher reports.

    Thursday night it snowed right down to the town, which made for some good fun out in the streets and a lovely walk early next morning.

    Friday, Turoa opened after some delay and we hit the road only to find a long queue at the chain fitting bay. Luckily the crews were regularly blocking the downhill lane to let 4WD’s up around the queue so hiring the RAV4 paid dividends here. Even so it was almost noon by the time we got on the skis. Fortunately the ski field was offering a discounted half day ticket for $50 instead of the usual half day price of $70 so we got in a good afternoon’s worth.

    Finally Saturday was forecast clear. The good side of a week’s snowfall is that the base had doubled from under 1m to just on 2m, on both fields. The bad side is that being a sunny weekend after so much snowfall, every man and his dog comes out to enjoy it. The lodge owner told us to leave early to beat the crowds and they weren’t kidding. We got up reasonably early but we heard later in the day they closed access to Turoa because the car parks were full.

    On the mountain there we long queues for everything, food, toilets and lifts, especially at the base and on the High Noon 6 seater, which managed to break down for quite a while around midday.
    Lucky the Nga Wai Heke quad was making its season debut which spread the people out a bit, but it was a shame that the Jumbo T Bar didn’t even have its cable on, as it would have helped even further.

    As a goodwill gesture the lifts stayed open an extra half hour until 4.30pm so we took advantage of this to do our traditional late home run by catching High Noon just before close and then waiting for the crowds to clear, before slowly making our way down an almost deserted mountain, followed only by the ski patroller and her dog.

    That was certainly our run of the week and after a disappointing trip we thought, hmmm… maybe the mountain has redeemed itself (just) and we might come back next year.

    Sunday was check out day and we decided to drive to Whakapapa for our last one as we hadn’t even been to that side yet. By the time we packed up and battled with the online ticket reloading using wifi it was 9.45am and the lodge staff told us the Whakapapa car parks were full.

    We thought we’d still be alright because in a previous year we’d taken a shuttle the short distance from Whakapapa Village without too much hassle.

    No such luck. Fine weather, big crowds and not enough buses made for a painful wait of over an hour in the village car park, then the bus got stuck in a queue of cars apparently waiting for some miracle vacancy to be allowed up the mountain, not very well organised in our view.

    We eventually got on the slopes at 1pm giving us a bit over 2½ hours skiing before having to be down to ensure we did not miss the last shuttle home at 4pm.

    So what were our conclusions after 4 trips from Australia to Mt Ruapehu? I think I can sum it up like this:
    1. Be prepared for some lousy weather and typically 2 or 3 fully closed days plus others with variable conditions;
    2. Your skiing day won’t be as long as in NSW because the lifts close earlier and it takes you longer to get up the mountain;
    3. I wouldn’t rely on Mt Ruapehu as my only skiing adventure in a season, but if I could do a separate week at Perisher (for example) where conditions tend to be more reliable, then Mt Ruapehu is still a spectacular place to visit with views, runs and terrain simply unlike anything in Australia;
    4. Oh and, when the sun comes out on the weekend, do make sure you leave the lodge very early!

    2014 videos:

    De-icing the Nga Wai Heke chairlift at Turoa, Mt Ruapehu

    Whakapapa ski field, Mt Ruapehu

    2013 report:

    2012 report:

    2011 report:

    2014 pictures:

    Snow falling in Ohakune

    Ohakune early morning after an overnight snowfall

    Jumbo T bar, Turoa, a bit iced up to be of any use to big weekend crowds.

    Crowds lined up at the base of Turoa on a sunny Saturday after a week of big snowfalls

    Craggy rocks at Turoa

    Frozen waterfall, Turoa

    Late afternoon home run, Turoa

    Sunset at the base of Turoa

    Whakapapa Village, a sunny Sunday, the mountain in view but a long wait for not enough buses

    The favourite volcano shot I have to take every year, a view of The Pinnacles and Mt Ngauruhoe, from the Far West T bar, Whakapapa.
    ScottGN, K@os, chunky and 2 others like this.
  2. Toto Warmlet

    Toto Warmlet One of Us

    Sep 2, 2003
    Likes Received:

    Nice images.
    It snowed as low as I've seen it that Thursday/Friday, but to no avail for us punters on vacation.
    I can't believe that shot of the crowd at the base.
    How disheartening that would be to avoid all the freaks, kooks and ghouls on that horrid trail and be confronted by that.
    Ruapehu won't repay your loyalty dude.
    He's like surfing, rarely perfect, but still makes you search.
    And he is his man.

    1st rule. Never go in school holidays.
    2nd rule. Never go on a Saturday or a Sunday morning till after the September school hols.
    (A difficult rule to obey)
    3rd rule. Eat hot chups at the Knoll cafe, the toilet may be way downstairs, but the urinals are well baffled.

    4th rule. Go to Japan.
    #2 Toto Warmlet, Sep 15, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
    K@os likes this.
  3. chunky

    chunky Old n' Crusty

    Jul 24, 1998
    Likes Received:
    That crowd at the bottom of the lift line is scary. The views apart from that one are sensational.