Yes, You Can Actually Ski in Hawaii

Joseph Phillips | | Industry NewsIndustry News
ski possible on hawaii volcano
A snowy summit on Mauna Kea. Photo: ChaletFinder

You read that right, Hawaii’s tallest mountain gets a dusting of snow most winters. Mauna Kea towers over the ocean at 13,796 ft. The “ski area” has no lifts, but a road to the summit provides access to the world-class observatory as well as skiable terrain. When it snows, a 4-wheel drive vehicle is required to reach the summit. Riders can organize their own expeditions, go with expedition group SkiHawaii, or ride with social group Hawaii Ski Club. Sadly there is usually a short window to ski, and weather at the summit is always changing, so trips can be last minute.

hawaii highest point forcastt
This weeks weather forecast for Mauna Kea’s summit. Photo: MountainForecast

Temperatures during winter range from 25-45 degrees F, but the wind chill can really bring that number down. Even during summer see how close the summit is to freezing point. The tropical island of Hawaii gets plenty of rain, so all it takes is a special cold storm to dump a few inches on the summit. They even had a 7 inch powder day in 2015!

possible skiing in hawaii
Snowy summits in Hawaii, December 2016. Photo: EarthObservatory

Mauna Kea is actually the tallest mountain in the world. If you include the 19,000 ft. below sea level where the dormant volcano begins, it surpasses Mt Everest. Conditions at these high elevations are not hospitable to humans: the sun is intense making eye and skin damage more likely, rapid weather changes can be problematic, and the lack of oxygen can lead to altitude sickness.

SkiHawaii advertises 2500′ – 4500′ vertical runs, depending on conditions. Coupled with the incredible views of the surrounding ocean, skiing above lush tropical vegetation, and the checkoff from the bucket list, how could you not be interested? SkiHawaii calls the slushy terrain that covers Mauna Kea Pineapple Snow, a clear spinoff of corn snow.

Pair a morning ski session with an afternoon surf for a perfect day. 

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8 thoughts on “Yes, You Can Actually Ski in Hawaii

  1. Hi! I just got back from my visit and was able to ski there. Couldn’t find anything on rentals so I just flew my own equipment out there and got a bunch of strange looks. You need a 4×4 vehicle and the ability to put it in 4L to be allowed up there (an AWD car won’t cut it). Once I had my skis on and was making turns there it was all worth it.

  2. I was wondering if you were able to Ski Mauna Kea. My wife and I will be there February 2022 and would like to take a few runs but have not been able to confirm if you can still ski and if there is any place to rent equipment or do we need to bring our own equipment

  3. Supposedly my dad and a bunch of other service guys skied on the mountains during world war II. I would live to know if there is any documentation of this.

  4. Yes, you can snow ski in Hawaii on Mauna Kea. The summit is about equal distance between Kona and Hilo airports and can be accessed via Saddle Road Highway. The new Saddle Road is much nicer and safer than the old Saddle Road. The summit road breaks off from Saddle Road and does require a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Also, the summit access road has been closed for several months by protests over the new telescope so you should check to make sure the road will be open. The snow on the summit is a nice powder and can be up to 7 inches deep. Beware of many rocky hazards. Facilities at the summit are limited. Remember that the summit is considered sacred ground so please be respectful. By Gregg L. Friedman MD

    1. Good day,
      How does one find out if the road is open?,
      and are there still companies that take main landers up to the top?
      I will be there for the last 2 weeks in March
      and would love to have the opportunity
      to ski another (4 total) volcano under my belt.
      Can you guide me in the correct direction?
      I have found site’s that are 10 + years old
      and nobody responds, assuming out of business.
      Thank you and

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