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Winter Holidays in the North Island: Essential Planning Tips
The New Zealand ski squad is currently preparing for the Whistler Cup that will take place in Canada, starting from April 5.
The squad is New Zealand's biggest ever for this tournament, and includes Eve Aspinall, a 13-year-old skier from Rangitoto College in North Shore City who will be competing in the under-14 races at the international youth event. She is one of New Zealand's many talented skiers, who include Jossi Wells who won a silver medal at the Winter X-Games earlier this month. So while they're escaping the dry weather to find some snow, you can start planning your winter holiday in New Zealand's North Island.
Choosing a resort
Naturally the first stage of the planning process will be to choose your field. The key factor to consider when reviewing the options that are available is who you're with; be it family or friends, beginners or advanced skiers or snowboarders, there will be a field that suits the requirements of your group.
The two key ski fields in New Zealand's North Island are Whakapapa and Turoa, both of which are found in Mt Ruapehu – New Zealand's largest ski area. Both fields have an excellent range of ski runs and are ideal for groups of mixed abilities. Whakapapa is perfect for absolute beginners, with the fit-for-purpose 'Happy Valley'. The valley is a haven for novices, giving them a confidence boost as they can learn on peaceful slopes away from those who are more experienced.
Both fields are excellent for more advanced skiers, with 49 black and black diamond runs between them as well as extensive backcountry to explore. Turoa gives access to the Solitude backcountry, the Triangle and the Glacier, providing plenty of choice for those who like a challenge as well as natural half pipes and chutes in the Organ Pipes area, making it the best field for boarders. Whakapapa's backcountry in the Black Magic area is host to the annual Extreme Competition, and offers the thrill seeker some of the world's most challenging terrain.
Whatever your group's abilities, you are sure to find something to suit everyone in Mt Ruapehu, but the different characters of the fields will appeal to different people. While Turoa may appeal more to boarders, Whakapapa may be more suitable for young beginners.
There are a number of options for travelling to the mountain, and as it is handily situated in the central North Island they are easily accessible. The mountain is less than five hours' drive away from both Auckland and Wellington, which makes it simple for families and large groups. If you are flying from abroad to New Zealand, or are a resident and want a faster journey, there are short flights from Auckland Airport and Wellington Airport to Taupo airport. A cheaper option and a favourite among young groups is the bus service run by Naked Bus that will take you to the mountain from most big towns in the North Island.
Once all of the major logistics are sorted, you can focus on all the small but necessary aspects of your preparations, such as what clothes to take and which ski pass to buy. Both of these are partially reliant on the snow and weather reports and which stage of the season you are heading out there. If it is going to be extremely cold, for example, you will obviously want to pack the thermals and an extra pair of gloves to put under your mittens. If it's going to be warm and sunny, t-shirts under jackets should be just fine.
Checking the snow report before you travel can also help you to decide which ski pass to buy. For example, if there has been a lot of snow followed by a lot of sunshine, the avalanche risk might be high which may restrict the area of mountain that is open to the public so you may want to think twice about buying a Platinum Club pass as you may not be permitted to use the guided backcountry trip included in this.
On the other hand, in the unlikely circumstance that there is no snow at the time of your trip, it might be wise to opt for a sightseeing pass, which allows you to go up the mountain for a walk and to appreciate the fantastic views. There is little reason to fear, however, as Whakapapa's average snow depth is 166cm, which is plenty enough to rival some of Europe's finest resorts, as reported by IgluSki. Snow report sites can be a great way not only to check the report before you travel, but also to compare the past and present reports from different resorts to find the best resort for you.
So while you're sitting in the sunshine on one side of the world, or braving the freezing cold on the other, start dreaming about your next winter adventure and start planning your trip to Great Lake Taupo.