Mount Ruapehu is a beautiful volcanic landscape located centrally on the North Island. Mt. Ruapehu is the largest mountain on the North Island and located in the Tongariro National Park. It has the largest ski field in New Zealand, with two main ski fields, Whakapapa and Turoa. Mt. Ruapehu is full of unparalleled beauty and a great area for mountain biking and hiking through the natural splendour of the area.
Located about 90 minutes away, Turoa ski field lies on the southwest side of Mount Ruapehu. Turoa is reached from the town of Ohakune on the Mountain Road. The people of Ohakune build the Mountain Road in their spare time, on the weekends and whenever they had spare time, so that the southern slope of Mount Ruapehu could be opened for skiing. This was begun in 1952, hoping the ski industry would replace the logging industry which was steadily declining in the area. The road was finally completed in 1963 and is 17 kilometers long. Travel on the Mountain Road offers magnificent views in the native forest before ending just below the chairlifts at the ski field.
The Turoa ski field is operated along with the Whakapapa ski field, which is also located on Mount Ruapehu. You can go from one ski field to the other and one lift ticket works for both fields. Together, they encompass the largest ski resort in New Zealand, and maybe even the entire Southern Hemisphere. It is common for skiers and snowboarders to hike to the top of the mountain for a great view of Crater Lake and then ski or snowboard back down.
The beginner area at Turoa is the Alpine Meadow. This beginner area boasts a carpet lift. This is similar to a conveyor belt over the snow. You just stand on it and it takes you up the slope. There is also a toboggan area alongside the Alpine Meadow for children, too.
There are twelve intermediate runs with chutes and all of them are long with many linking for intermediate skiing at its best, all the way back down to the base. For the advanced skier, there are twenty five black and black diamond runs and a variety of terrains for challenge. There are half-pipes and chutes, but if you like the steep runs, there is Hamilton's Face, with all the thrills an advanced skier needs.
There is a new high speed six-seater chairlift that is capable of taking 11,300 people an hour during the busy season.
Whakapapa ski field is on the northern side of Mount Ruapehu. The terrain here is 25% beginner, 50% intermediate and 25% advanced. Travel there is by Bruce Road. You will find accommodations and food at the top and Alpine huts are also available.
Happy Valley is the beginner's area and is thought to be one of the best in the country. There is also a tubing park just across from Happy Valley and you can walk there from the base area. The east side of the field has various different terrains and this is where most of the lifts are. The west area is where you can find the area known as "Black Magic" which is one of the best off piste areas around. There are forty three runs all together with sixteen lifts. Due to the higher elevation of Whakapapa, in a good season they will be open on Christmas day for summer skiing.
For accommodations, you cannot do better than the Chateau Tongariro. Located on the slopes of Mount Kuapehu and close to the Whakapapa ski field, Chateau Tongariro is noted to be one of the most luxurious hotels in all of New Zealand. The colourful history of this chateau begins when it was built in 1929. This Georgian style chateau was built to the style of a Canadian resort. It was intended to offer elegance after skiing the slopes – and it did, offering the finest cuisine and dining under grand chandeliers. World War II came and the chateau was taken over by the government and used as an asylum at one time. The chateau reopened in 1948 newly decorated and renovated. Sold in 1990 the new owners worked to restore the chateau once again and added a new wing of thirty nine rooms. Today this chateau is a historic treasure where you can still enjoy fine dining under grand chandeliers, take in the splendid mountain views and enjoy the kind of excellent service always found in days of old.