Winter Magic at Mount Ruapehu

Ohakune is a magic little town at the foot of Mount Ruapehu. In ‘BC’ (before children) days we always opted for the cheapest accommodation, within staggering distance of the pub – and have plenty of memories of freezing showers and rooms where all the hot air was only in the top half of the room, whilst ice formed on our sleeping bags below.

By Sarah Lee

These days the pub isn’t a priority and so we opted for a chalet, through Ruapehu Chalet Rentals on the outskirts of town with beautiful views of the mountain and lambs in the neighbouring paddock.

On our first day we headed to the other side of the mountain and the Whakapapa ski field. The conditions were not ideal, but thankfully children’s snow clothing is rented out at a decent price and once the girls were suitably attired they were happy to experience the snow. This was the first time either of them had ever seen snow and they were so in awe. Charli was more game on and had a couple of great sledge runs. Sophie, always thinking of food, was happier to get to the cafe quick-smart after an initial roll in the snow. 

most majestic view of Mount Ngauruhoe


The girls are definitely set for a future appreciating the ‘apres ski’ scene – just look at the pouts in these photos after some souvenir shopping. Charli came away with a magic snow-dome that had us making wishes over dinner the rest of the holiday. Sophie is chuffed with her Mount Ruapehu drinking vessel.

We had a great morning and as we left the sky cleared and treated us to the most majestic view of Mount Ngauruhoe. Dan and I proudly relived the day we climbed to the peak and how for every two steps up we slid a step back. It took us two hour’s to reach the crater and only 20 minutes to scree run down! One day we’ll take the girls up – but I can easily envisage the scene, ‘Come on old folk, get a move on’.

No climbing mountains for us on this holiday, but we did enjoy a beautiful walk to the Tawhai Falls, a mere 20 minute return walk, beginning 4km below Whakapapa Visitor Centre. The falls, which tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow, are reached after a delightful stroll through mountain toatoa and beech forest. I was transfixed with the moss and fungi growing on the trunks of the dark, Beech trees. The girls looked at me as though I’d lost my head on the mountain somewhere as I stared in awe chanting, ‘Mmmm, the vegetation on these trees is absolutely incredible, just touch it, ooo, it’s amazing, so rich, so spongy…’ adjectives aplenty.    

Driving back to Ohakune, and the giant carrot – and snowman – we enjoyed more lamb, calf and foal spotting (which we never tired of all holiday). 

Day three and more snow fun – after a mandatory cuppa at ‘Utopia cafe’. This time a try on the skis for Charli at Turoa ski-field. Sophie and I hired a sledge – but sadly my heel steering created a vast amount of ice backlash, which all landed in SJ’s face! One run was enough for her and we quickly retreated to the cafe for chocolate brownie.

Turoa Beginner Ski Classes


Meanwhile, Charli loved skiing and declared that she didn’t want to go anywhere else on holiday, but stay on the mountain. We’ve promised her a return visit and some ski lessons – as we weren’t quite sure where to begin – erm, ‘Snow plough, snow plough – arrr, lean forward, bend your knees, that’s it, now a little faster, ooo er, sorry, time for some bum skiing – slow down – arrr, well done, we’re so proud of you, awesome determination girl….’ and despite our inept skills at ski instructing she still loved it. 

As we left Turoa the cloud rolled in fast and visibility was shocking. The girls were so excited that it was actually snowing and it was beautiful to see the gorgeous bush that lines the twisting drive to the ski-field sprinkled in white. As we descended altitude the snow turned to sleet, then rain, before finally ceasing. It’s a stunning drive with lots of geological signposts to past volcanic activity. Where the road had been cutaway into the landscape there was a chocolate cake look to the various layers. 

Our drive onwards to Taupo was bathed in sunshine and we were ready for a soak in the hot tub.

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