One thing that hasn’t slipped our minds these last few weeks is the reality that it is winter here! (Come on it wouldn’t be a brits blog if we didn’t talk about the weather!). Despite being ‘winter’ it’s been pretty balmy however, the amount of rain has been really quite impressive. Now if there’s rain and you go high enough, you must find snow and this is good news!
Our first ski trip New Zealand style. We had been prepped about how not to compare it in any way to our usual week long jaunts in the alps and to set our expectations low. Get those T-bar legs ready as they dominate in the ski areas as the main mode of transport. We also needed to get our head around the concept of driving to the mountain each day, no apres ski which meant no wine fuelled ski to the base each day… Unusual but with our expectation levels reset we were just excited to be having a couple of days on the mountain!
So what did we learn on our first weekend jaunt to Mt Ruapehu? Firstly, before I get onto the specifics, it goes without saying, we had a bloody great weekend! We were lucky with the weather. The sun shone,the snow was good and despite it being a weekend the slopes weren’t as busy as we thought they’d be. While we stayed a bit further away from the Whakapapa around Lake Taupo it was a good base for our first visit to this area. Lake Taupo is beautiful and the town was fun – definitely looking forward to heading back there in the summer. Big thumbs up from us for a pretty convenient ski weekend out of Auckland. So, a few ‘notes to self’ for next time;
- Where to stay? We stayed in Taupo, just over an hour from the actual ski area – it sounds a long way but actually worked quite well. It has a fair few pubs and restaurants so good for a bit of evening entertainment and delayed apres fun. All the people we met around and about were super friendly. We also thought we’d re-visit our ‘travelling’ days and stay in a backpackers… Thank you Urban Retreat for a great stay and very cheap beer during Happy Hour. We will be back. Oh yes and thanks for correcting our pronunciation – we now know that a ‘wh’ is pronounced as an ‘f’. Saved us many a humiliation.
- Driving up the mountain. It’s always hard to imagine how the logistics of things work before you’ve experienced them directly. I remember this very well ahead of my first ever ski trip just over 10 years ago. While in my head I was already a skier (one that had never actually been up a snow topped mountain) I had had years of friends talking about their family ski holidays; from the transfer to the resort; getting the ski hire and lift passes sorted; navigating the lifts up the mountain; spending a day up the mountain doing numerous ‘runs’; having a hot chocolate here and a Gluwein there; and something about 4 course chalet meals…etc. In my mind this all sounded hugely confusing with a lot of logistics. The same was true with this ski trip to Whakapapa. As the most popular ski mountain in all of the North Island how on earth were all the cars going to get a spot in the ‘car parks’? Competitive spirit coming out once again we were up and away early and soon there was a trail of cars all heading to the same end destination. I can however confirm that it all works out surprisingly well. With numerous car parks close to one another parking was not a problem and then a 5 -1 0 minute walk or a quick bus shuttle
- Ski hire. Another element of the ski weekend which brought out the competitive side in me was the prospect of hiring ski gear with the rest of the weekend ski clan. There is the opportunity to hire this from Taupo but you need to return it on the Sunday by 4pm and as we were driving out on a different route and wanted to maximised our ski time this wasn’t an option. That being said it would have saved us a bit of a queue….there was a large line of people trailing out of the main ski hire shop (there is another at the base of the learners ‘Happy Valley’ area I believe.) This being said, the process was pretty efficient and they seemed ready for the influx. We could then keep the gear overnight so day 2 would bypass any of the faff. This made us feel like proper skiers, driving down the mountain at the end of the day with all the gear (just need to get one of those roof boxes to fit in with the true outdoor venturers)
- What to wear. Yes ski gear is very much on the cards. But remember to take clothes to change into at the end of the day. We headed there 3/4 dressed in our ski gear and of course one minor error on my part was the arrival up the mountain, with the winter winds blowing, and me just in the trusty flip flops! We had to walk up the mountain to the ski hire and place and aside from the fact that I felt like an idiot, I thought my feet might fall off.
- The Skiing. So it is fair to say that the ski fields here should not be compared to that of the 3 valleys, however if you’re looking for mountains and snow and skiing – it delivers. 2 days was a good amount of time ski in the Whakkapapa area and although you do find yourself on the same runs and lifts quite a lot, it is fun. There are blues, reds and black runs – again not so comparable with European runs as they tend to be shorter and probably not so steep but some very enjoyable runs. Perhaps the greatest aspect of it, is the fact that you’re skiing on a volcano. This makes the ski area particularly rocky so you need to keep an eye out for hidden volcanic rocks under the snow…Lifts – not-so-modern. In this area T-bars are all the rage but I have heard that over in Turoa there is a slightly more modern lift system
So we skied until about 4pm on the Sunday and it was then time for the 4 hr drive straight from the mountain to the city. After 2 days of fresh air we were pretty knackered but the drive was bearable with a quick coffee stop. And boy did we sleep well that night!