Skiing Whakapapa to Turoa – New Zealand

It’s possible to ski from Whakapapa to Turoa on Mt Ruapehu. Rumours abound about possible new chairlifts linking the fields or perhaps a new snow groomer trail to open up the traverse – fact or fiction we didn’t feel like waiting.

Our Experience

Attempt 1 – Failure

Our first attempt was to traverse out from Black Magic on Whakapapa and simply follow the contour around. We took a topographical map and did a few runs traversing progressively further out but always returning to the Far West Quad on Whakapapa. On our final run we arrived at a steep sided valley where a modest drop (1-3m) over a ledge would be needed to continue heading to Turoa. This was the point of no return and after interrogating our map we decided to abort.

The combination of cliffs and massive distances made the traverse unfeasible.

Attempt 2 – Success

We joined a number of people making their way up to the crater lake from the top of the Far West T-bar. We had bought up conventional hiking boots and used these to make light work of the ascent. The snow near the crater had frozen into proper blue boiler-plate ice and out ski boots made no impression. After surveying the map and looking out for other ski tracks (another pair of people had skied in the direction we were heading) we headed off through the deepest part of a saddle to the west of the lake. A few minutes later we were within sight of Turoa ski lifts. The snow was relatively firm but we stayed a good distance apart for the duration in case we triggered a slide. We spent the afternoon at Turoa before getting a lift back.

Key points: This route would be extremely dangerous in poor weather – several people have died in the area when the weather suddenly turned bad. Slipping on ice is a real risk and you need to be a capable skier – a snowboarder might consider crampons and ice axe just in case. Avalanche risk is very real – you need to have had some training, a good understanding of local conditions and a real respect for advice from Ski Patrol at the neighbouring ski fields. Avalanche risk was low when we visited and we didn’t bring Pieps, poles or shovels – while actually skiing we felt a bit naked without this equipment; it’s cheap to hire from The Edge and other outlets and worth the expense.

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