Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) operates two ski areas on Mt. Ruapehu: Turoa and Whakapapa. Here are some key differences between the two:
Whakapapa is on the north-western slopes of Mt. Ruapehu and gets more sun exposure than Turoa (primo spring skiing). They are the largest ski area in New Zealand.
Turoa is on the south-western slopes of Mt. Ruapehu and gets more snow than Whakapapa (primo pow days). They have the longest vertical descent in New Zealand/Australia, and also have New Zealand’s highest chair lift.
Largest resort AND most vert in New Zealand? Not bad, RAL. I was fortunate enough to explore both this weekend.
Saturday was a bluebird day at Whakapapa. It was my first time there and the landscape is dominated by the towering Pinnacles on the lookers right side of the resort. The snow was nice and grippy and the groomers did a good job with the trails. The coverage isn’t as good as at Turoa, as they haven’t been getting as much snow. Up higher, there was some good off-piste skiing. My favorite runs were Haensli Face and the Lower Pinnacles Traverse.
Sunday was the cloudy filling between two beautiful blue bird days. Not much else to say about Sunday.
Monday, while technically not part of the weekend, was the best day of all. Back to a familiar Turoa under the bright blue ski, there was good snow everywhere. The groomers were ripping and I finally got to do some good off-piste exploring. People were hitting cliff drops off of the Waterfall and the Keyhole had a very nice soft landing. ‘Thank you’ to the snowboarder who landed sideways and took a huge part of the soft landing with him. The best snow that I found was in the Mangaehuehu Glacier area; very consistent wind-loaded powder and zero traffic. I took at least 6 laps back there and started attracting followers by the afternoon.
It looks like the weather is about to go to shit again for a while with clouds and rain, so I’m glad I got this out of my system. Time to put on my spandex and go do my snow dance…