2nd Highest Ski Resort on Earth = 15,700 Feet in the Maoke Mountains of Indonesia

Miles Clark |
Maoke Mountain glaciers in Indonesia
Maoke Mountain glaciers are losing ground in Indonesia but once held a ski resort

There are hints and legends of a ski resort at 15,700-feet on the Indonesian half of Papua New Guinea in the legendary Maoke Mountains.  There is very little corroborating information nor evidence to be found anywhere.  I believe that it existed and maybe that it still exists today.  This region of Indonesia is very restricted and only accessed through special permits acquired once in the country.  Everything on this half of the island is steeped in fantastic mystery.

A marks the Maoke Mountains of Papua New Guinea
A marks the Maoke Mountains of Papua New Guinea

Despite teetering on the edge of reality and myth, this ski resort must have been stunning.  When the snows were deep, the lifts were running, and the mystery was a reality, this must have been one of the most magical places ever skied.

Maoke mountain glaciers in current times
Maoke mountain glaciers in current times

The world’s 2nd highest ski resort exists at -4 Latitude in the Indonesian half of Papua New Guinea.  It’s hard to believe that an equatorial nation is known for the best surfing on Earth also has the 2nd highest ski resort on Earth, but it’s a reality I can’t ignore nor completely confirm.

Snowboarding the Maoke in recent times. photo: corey rich
Steven Koch snowboarding the Maoke Mountains. photo: corey rich/TetonAT

The Maoke Mountains of Indonesia hold a 16,023-foot peak called Puncak Jaya or Carstensz Pyramid.  This peak is one of the Seven Summits as it is the highest peak in Oceana (basically Australia and it’s surrounding islands).  These peaks are significant with at least 3 glaciers, many peaks over 12,000 feet tall, a tree line of 12,000 feet, and a handful of peaks over 14,500 feet.

There is reportedly a small ski resort located on the Meren glacier here started by Sir John McCisk in 1979.  This whole enterprise seems a truly clandestine affair, but we can’t help indulge as far as we possibly can.

Maoke Mountain Glacier map
Maoke Mountain Glacier map

MAOKE SKI RESORT FACTS:

– 2nd highest ski resort on Earth at 15,700 feet

– Base elevation of 14,500 feet

– 3 ski lifts on the Meren Glacier, 2 pomas and 1 rope tow

– Best skiing = May – October

– First opened in 1979 with a rope tow and ski lodge, ski resort completed in 1982

Maoke mountains with snow
Maoke mountains with snow

– 3.5 miles of groomed runs

– Annual average temperature = 33F

– Mostly mellow, beginner-intermediate terrain

– It is unknown if this ski resort is still in operation

Maoke Mountain glaciers where the ski resort existed or exists...
Maoke Mountain glaciers where the ski resort existed or exists…  photo from 1936
Same zone as the image above but with much less glacier
Same zone as the image above but with much less glacier.  photo from 1972

MAOKE MOUNTAIN GLACIERS:

The Maoke Mountain Glaciers are disappearing fast.  They are the only tropical glaciers in Asia.  They’ve undergone a major volume decrease in the past 20 years and they are forecasted to be completely gone in 20 more years.

“In 1989, five ice masses sat on the slopes of Puncak Jaya, a 4,884-meter (16,020-foot) peak within the Sudirman Range. By 2009, two of the glaciers—Meren and Southwall—were gone. The other three—Carstenz, East Northwall Firn, and West North Wall Firn—had retreated dramatically.”NASA

Maoke Mountain glaciers in 1989
Maoke Mountain glaciers in 1989 were holding strong.  photo: nasa
Maoke mountain glaciers in 2009
Maoke mountain glaciers in 2009.  Almost gone.  photo: nasa

MAOKE MOUNTAIN INFORMATION:

“Maoke Mountains, Indonesian Pegunungan Maoke, formerly Snow Mountains, the westernmost segment of the central highlands of New Guinea. It is located in the Indonesian province of Papua. The range extends for 430 miles (692 km), and much of it lies above 12,000 feet (3,660 meters), with a number of peaks rising above the 14,500-foot (4,400-metre) snow line. It is composed of the Sudirman (west) andJayawijaya (east) ranges, the former containing the island’s highest point, 16,024-foot (4,884-metre) Jaya Peak (formerly called Puntjak Sukarno or Mount Carstensz). These rugged mountains have their tree line at about 12,000 feet.” – Encyclopedia Britannica

7 summits map with Indonesia
7 summits map with Indonesia
maoke mountain glacier map
USGS map showing Meren glacier where the ski resort was/is…

This ski resort in Indonesia must have been a small paradise.  Culture, biodiversity, solitude, thin air, and mystery must have run rampant here.  Imagining skiing laps on a poma chair in this bizarre place would have difficult to fathom.  The corroborating evidence is very shaky and hard to find, but if you want to read much more, we did find a couple pages of strange transcript that describe this ski resort in some detail:  Maoke Mountain Ski Resort.

Learn details about the glaciers of Maoke Mountains:  Maoke Mountain Glaciers USGS & Maoke Mountain Glacier retreat NASA

Learn about the world’s highest ski resort on Earth:  17,785-Foot Chacaltaya in Boliva

You tell us.  Do you think this ski resort exists?

Maoke mountains and glaciers
Maoke mountains and glaciers and the huge Grasberg mine

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23 thoughts on “2nd Highest Ski Resort on Earth = 15,700 Feet in the Maoke Mountains of Indonesia

  1. If it were real, I still likely rather just hike and ski. Can you drive to the base? I assume so considering that mine is there.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
  2. I do believe zhis ski resort existed but I am sure it cannot exist now because the glaciers there are expected to vanish this year (2015). I also do believe I will find some info about the exiszence mythical ski resort.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
    1. Hi Jan.

      I’m researching the Puncak Jaya ski fields for a possible TV project and I wanted to know if you managed to gain any more information about whether or not the glaciers still existed, or if there was any remnants of the ski resort. Is it possible to still get up there?

      If you have any more information I’d be really grateful to know what you can find.

      My email is above and if you send me your phone number I’d be happy to give you a call.

      Thanks,

      Tim

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      0 (0 votes)
      1. Hi Tim,

        I am almost sure you found also this web page:
        http://www.alpinforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=17633&hilit=indonesien
        I have not got any other information but if you want to call me I will be glad to talk to you. My phone No. is +420 721 146 740 (mobile), +420 595 171 927 (land line). My “mission” is to ski in all coutries in the world (including “exotic” ones) where it us worth to do so but I am sure Indonesia will not be among them.

        I can hardly believe that the lifts were bult there because who would ski there? How many people could get there?

        Please let me know more about your TV project.

        Jan

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        0 (0 votes)
    2. Maybe it was built for the rich people who works in the one of the biggest mining in the world which is close to it. But i do believe it is no longer exist because of the global warming.
      There are many unknown secret areas in Indonesia , this must be one of it.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      +3 (3 votes)
          1. Yes unfortunately West Papua has been colonised by Indonesia. Papuans are not Muslim or Asian. But the greatest injustice has been done by the American company Freeport McMoran and its Grasberg mine. You can see from the satellite images the scale of that mine and how it has disfigured an incredible area. It has made a few corrupt politicians and American businessmen and bankers very rich, but has it has truly impoverished the local people.

            VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
            +2 (2 votes)
  3. You know that they used to ski on Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii. It wasn’t a resort but I heard that they actually had a service where they would shuttle skiers up the mountain in a jeep that had had its carburetor specifically tuned to operate in what would be close to 14,000 altitude. The latitude is 19.82 north. But when the skis and maybe your skin would hit that lava, oche, it would hurt.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
    1. Yes, I know about skiing on Mauna Kea and am decided to try it. I have not heard about the “shuttle service” but have read that skiers use thir own cars. I think this can be a kind of utmost skiing experience for a Central European guy!!!!

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      0 (0 votes)
    2. Oh yeah, you know it, who know’s maybe it will be some lines we’ll ski someday?

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      0 (0 votes)
  4. Well good luck, I’ve been to Hawaii once but didn’t go to the big island. Remember there’s lava under that snow so be careful & have fun.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
  5. I think it was built for the leisure of the mine workers, especially the executives.
    Need a very special permit just to enter the area. Because the road access closest to that place owned by freeport.
    And the locals never know it, because the company rarely share anything with the locals.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +1 (1 vote)
    1. This “release” by Guinness reduces their credibility because it shows they can believe such a bullsheet.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      0 (0 votes)
      1. Disagree. The idea that there’s a ski resort lying somewhere in remote Indonesia is a fascinating – real or not. I don’t think Guinness is trying to prove anything, they’re just shedding light on an intriguing mystery (and trying to sell beer).

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        0 (0 votes)
  6. Do you know about Indonesia?
    maybe some people never been to Indonesia, Indonesia is a small country, and even corrupt states. But Indonesia has a myriad of stories.

    Many cultures, customs, you just believe about reality. But Indonesia, covering everything. Reality and the supernatural.

    Tropical climate in Indonesia, the fact that snow is also in Indonesia, it is only in Papua New Guinea.
    Every mountaineer in Indonesia believe that the soul is gone, which means the area that no one else knew where existence. But if through the region, 70% did not return, and a 30% return, but in poor condition. Physically the missing person was healthy, but mentally damaged, even close to crazy.

    So, talk about skiing in Indonesia is not impossible existence.

    I can not explain clearly about Papua New Guinea, are not you believe in the real thing. Why do not you see for yourself .. !!

    I believe, if God wills nothing is impossible, including ski areas in Indonesia.

    ^ _ ^

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
    1. Indonesia is a small Country ? Indonesia is a country of 256 Million Peoples, The Total Indonesian area is 7.9 million Km , Indonesia if you put on the Europe map is the sam from London to Moscow.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      +2 (2 votes)
  7. when people said about all political views in indonesia,,,,<
    nah
    just forget about it, it's safe there,

    and the plus is $1 = Rp. 13.000,- (enough for a bottle of water + a snackbox)
    (thank god for the conversion)
    a pint beer? $3
    a box large pizza? $10
    a car $30 day
    a motel $10-30/night
    a hotel $20-100/night
    a guesthouse $150/month (ac, kingsize bed, drawer, hotwater, cable tv)

    the bigger the city, the cheaper you get.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +1 (1 vote)

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