Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas are located on Mt Ruapehu. Turoa (south side) and Whakapapa (North side) have equal advantages. The fields are operated by the same company so passes are interchangeable.
I am not going to get into which side is the best as they are both amazing and each well worth exploring and together they cover over 1000 hectares of patrolled areas and groomed trails. I want to share my observations from the last 35 years, over 30 days snow-boarding last season alone (2011). So if you like, consider these points when visiting Mt Ruapehu to get the best conditions on the day.
It can be crazy; one side can be covered in cloud and blowing and the other side it’s crystal clear with no wind. I particularly hate it when a friend phones to tell me he’s on the other side having the best day of his life, whilst I’m on the opposite side of the mountain with zero vis perfecting cartwheels.
2) Snow conditions
Mt Ruapehu has some extreme weather, and with as little bias as possible I find in early winter the north facing slopes of Whakapapa appeal to me more. The snow evens out as the season progresses and I usually end up at Turoa more and more. There is no reason to be scraping through ice or wallowing in sludgy snow when the other side is perfect and you’re just too stubborn to go take a look. Regular visits to both sides will diminish your favouritisms.
3) Traffic tip
Weekends are typically busy. A little trick I learnt is to call up the mountain and ask the kind people who work there “how busy is it?” Unbelievable how many times this has changed the course of a day as the reply maybe “a bus has slid out and blocked the road and it’ll be an hour to tow it out and traffics building.”
4) No car, here’s a tip
Stay somewhere social with lots of people. Ask the staff to link you up with others with space in their vehicles (car pooling); this works. If you’re a seasoned traveller you will know it’s all in your attitude, in the kitchen talk to other guests mention that you haven’t sorted a lift yet, offer them a beer and you’ll be surprised, or maybe offer a little petrol money.
Visit us if you like: www.thecrossingbackpackers.co.nz, and we can help arrange your trip.