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Robert Stewart explores the largest snowsports area in New Zealand which is also an active volcano – perhaps not an obvious choice for a relaxing holiday. Still, it all adds to the excitement and he's come up with what’s great about sliding down the North Island’s highest mountain that might go bang at any moment.
basecamp image for snow mag
Number one reason: The view is awesome

The thing about Mt Ruapehu (2, 797 meters) is that is protrudes upwards out of what’s a relatively flat surrounding landscape. This means on a clear day you can see for a very long way, right over to Mt Taranaki (2, 518 meters) on the west coast of the North Island. Just next door to Ruhapehu is the classic volcanic shape of Mt Ngāuruhoe (2, 287 meters), which erupted 45 times in the 20th century – last time was in 2012. The spectacular peak was the star of Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings and played the part of Mt Doom, just to add to the suspense.

Second reason: They can get tons of snow

Because of the geographical positioning, snow on Mt Ruhapehu can be abundant – we have to note that it’s not always the case, but it’s pretty reliable. The weather can come in from all directions and when winds sweep the cold air up from the south, across the ocean, then the first thing it hits is Ruhapehu. It’s more common for rain to fall down in the town of Ohakune, but high on the slopes of the volcano, it can be dumping snow – for days. This means that right into the spring there’s good skiing available on the slopes, even when the days get longer and warmer.

Reason three: it’s the largest ski area in New Zealand

The winter sports playgrounds of Turoa and Whakapapa make up the largest skiable areas in New Zealand, and they’re both located on Mt Ruapehu. There’s twelve chairlifts, over 700 meters of vertical and over 1,000 hectares of in-bound skiing – that’s massive in Southern Hemisphere terms. There’s fifty two groomed trails with 25% suitable for beginners, 50% intermediates and 25% for experts. There’s opportunities to ski powder when the conditions are right, but if you decide to go out of bounds it’s entirely at you own risk, and remember, you’re on an active volcano!

Fourth reason: the party town down below

Ohakune is the main accommodation base for the ski area of Turoa and also serves Whakapapa too. It’s about a 20 minute drive from the ski area, but once down, there’s plenty of action to keep you occupied right into the night. One of the main events is the Mardi Gras festival at the end of June where live music, dancing in the streets and silly costumes prevail – I (don’t) remember it well! The main partying takes place in an area known as The Junction and the town can proudly claim to be a true after ski destination.

And the fifth: It’s in New Zealand!

Once you’re down in New Zealand, there’s so much more to do and see that just skiing or snowboarding. Ruapehu is the closest skiing to the country’s largest city, Auckland – with its world class restaurants, harbour area and shopping. Not into that, then why not bungy jumping, white water rafting, skydiving or take a trip to the South Island which is one of the world’s outdoor adventure capitals. It’s easy to get around New Zealand and the great thing about Ohakune is the access to Auckland’s International Airport – the most likely entry point into the country. 

Basecamp operate ski and snowboard instructor courses on Mt Ruhapehu during the winter season between July and September

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