Sunday, March 1, 2009

This Season Ski Turoa

This season, probably more than any other season, will be a great season to ski Turoa. With the recent arson attack at Whakapapa Skifield the facilities on that side of the mountain will be reduced in quality and size. It lends to the opportunity for more people to come and ski Turoa and enjoy the open pistes, hidden valleys and super back-country that Turoa ski-field has to offer.
The region has been deeply saddened, and shocked, by the attack and hope that the re-construction process of the Knoll Ridge cafe goes smoothly, that Ruapehu Alpine Lifts are able to get the damage to the top chairlift station repaired as quickly as possible, and that the groomers are able to be replaced.
Predictions from various weather sources are already pointing towards another good snow year, not the extremes of last year, but a decent amount of snow. So start getting you ski gear together, discounted season passes go on sale in April, and the traditional Easter Sales will start getting even the quiet skier excited about the 2009 southern hemisphere season.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Why Ski Turoa

It has been, in the past, the forgotten side of Mount Ruapehu, with many skiers avoiding the chance to ski Turoa because they assume it's "just for snowboarders" or "it's the dark-side".

As a skier and a snowboarder at Mount Ruapehu for over 20 years now, I can pronounce, any person who hasn't tried to ski Turoa, or snowboard for that matter,need to give it a spin!

Turoa Ski Area is on the south-western slopes of Mount Ruapehu and holds the title of Australasia's longest vertical drop and New Zealand's highest lift.

The beginner area at Turoa is called "The Alpine Meadow" and is set apart to the main ski area, so beginners can get the knack of skiing in a safe environment. But, keen skiers and boarders aren’t neglected. There is a extensive array of topography, from open runs to gullies and cliffs. On the assumption that you want to get off the groomed trails, Turoa has 2 lift-accessed off-piste areas that dedicated skiers and riders hold high. And if you want to turn your legs into jelly, there is a run that is 4kms long!

Over the 2006/07 summer Turoa underwent New Zealand's greatest ski area upgrade, with $19 million being spent on 3 major projects.

* A new 1.4km long 6-seat high-speed chairlift with padded seats and footrests was built, which takes you to the highest point of the ski-area in around 5 minutes.
* The snow-making system was tripled in size and a 55 million litre water reservoir was created to feed future expansion of snow-making
* The base area cafe and retail complex was doubled in size and now seats 400 people.

Turoa's ski season ,commonly, runs from June to October and at times extends into November. It has consistent decent precipitation, with the 2008 season being a record breaker, with a snow base going over the 5m mark for the first time in history. The conditions commonly in the early season are hard packed or icy with some great powder days in the mid-winter but once spring arrives it is time to ski Turoa! Spring time arrives around somewhere in September, there's no usual set date but when the mountain moths start to litter the streets of Ohakune's nightlife centre, The Junction, that's a good indicator that spring is here and the skiing is going to be fantastic.

With Turoa's south-western aspect it means that the sun arrives on the piste later in the day, which also means the snow stays cooler for longer, usually across the month of October the ski-field is in a freeze-melt-freeze cycle. Giving hard conditions first thing in the morning, great piste skiing from 11am, then around 1pm Turoa's exceptional off-piste back-country comes into its own and lasts through to around 3pm when it gets to mushy to ski effectively. It will then freeze overnight and be ready to ride all over again the next day. Expect some late season freshies lumped with blue-sky days, perfect for the 60 minute hike to the summit of Mount Ruapehu and spectacular views of the crater lake and surrounding country-side. On some days you can sea both the Tasman sea and the Pacific Ocean.

With good accommodation and a great night-life in Ohakune at the bottom of the 17km access road, which has been voted the best and most scenic ski-area access road in New Zealand on numerous occasions, the opportunity to ski Turoa should not be sneezed at. Get some friends together and make a few days of it. There's so much terrain to explore you'll need them all.