One of New Zealand’s big tourist draw-cards is the ability to easily experience the outdoors, and many people who travel to Aotearoa in winter want to hit the slopes with their skis or snowboards. Snow sports have a reputation of being expensive, but there are still ways for the budget traveller to make the most out of New Zealand’s mountains without breaking the bank. Enter Tukino ski field on the eastern slopes of Mount Ruapehu in the Central North Island.
Tukino is a small, club-managed ski field on the eastern side of the mountain. The great thing is that you don’t have to be a club member to use the facilities – it’s open to the public too! By skiing or boarding here as opposed to the other two fields on Ruapehu (Turoa to the South and Whakapapa on the Northern side) you can avoid the crowds and see how Kiwis enjoyed their winters before corporate interests too over.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Tukino access road is located off State Highway 1, 35km north of Waiouru. If you have a car and there isn’t too much snow on the ground you can easily make it along the 8km of unsealed road to the 2WD car park. Make sure you stick to the track through here, as on your right is Tongariro National Park (a world heritage area) and 20 metres (emphasis on metres, not kilometres) on your left is the NZ Army Training Area where live firing exercises can take place at any time, day or night. (There may also be some unexploded ordnance nearby – nothing to worry about if you stay on the access road).
Once you get to the 2WD car park you can either brave the rest of the road (but only if you’re in a suitable 4WD vehicle – and by suitable I mean a Landcruiser, Land Rover or similar) – or get the 4WD shuttle to the lodge.
Give the ski field a call when you leave Waiouru if you’re intending to use the shuttle service ($20 per person, with a minimum charge of $40) and he’ll be there to pick you up when you arrive at the car park.
If you don’t have a car, you can always get a coach or train to Waiouru and the shuttle can pick you up from there ($40 per adult, but a minimum charge of $120).
WHAT ABOUT ACCOMMODATION?
One of the great things about Tukino is it offers Ski and Stay Packages where you can stay on the field itself in one of their three lodges. Weekend packages of two days and two nights are $190 including meals (note that you’ll be rostered to help with the dishes, but that’s a small price to pay).
It is generally easier to stay at Tukino as it saves making the 4WD journey multiple times a day. Not to mention that all other accommodation is likely booked out by people visiting the other two Ruapehu ski fields.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
A breakdown of prices* for Tukino:
Weekend Ski and Stay $190
Mid-week Ski and Stay $95/night
Adult Day Pass $50
4WD Shuttle from car park $20-$40
4WD Shuttle from Waiouru $40-$120
Adult Earlybird Season Pass $180
Adult Season Pass $225
Now, let’s compare that with the other two Ruapehu fields:
All Mountain Day Pass $95
Weekend Pass $181
Long Weekend Pass (Friday-Sunday) $225
Admittedly for those prices you do get access to two fields and a range of runs, but for those on a budget you also have the extra costs of accommodation (at a premium during winter) and food.
*Note: all prices are for the 2012 season and are in NZ dollars
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Tukino doesn’t have a chairlift, but does have a cable tow to get you up the mountain.
- Mount Ruapehu is an active volcano. Check the news to make sure that there isn’t a heightened warning in place.
- Make sure your travel insurance covers alpine sports before you hit the slopes.
Have you hit the slopes in New Zealand before? What are your tips to keep the costs down for any budget travellers wanting to ski or board here?
Note: I’m not in any way affiliated with Tukino. I get nothing by recommending them or from you clicking on the links above.