Mt Ruapehu is revered as the focus for fantastic winter fun on the expansive slopes of Whakapapa and Turoa – the largest snow sports area in New Zealand.
Tukino, a club field on the remote eastern slopes, offers the chance to ski and snowboard on the ‘wild’ side of the mountain. The sense of adventure of the early days of skiing is evident here, with a genuine camaraderie, and no queues or crowds to worry about.
Like all club fields in New Zealand, Tukino is open to the public and is operated by volunteers. The facilities are less sophisticated, and the field has just two nutcracker type ski tows. But on the plus side the daily lift pass is half the cost of the commercial fields. Tukino has two warm, comfortable ski lodges on the mountain with a capacity of 32 bunks each. The overnight rate includes all meals and transport from the base camp.
Tukino is a good venue for families and beginners. The field is sheltered from the prevailing winds and tends to have clearer skies than the rest of the mountain. The skiable area is 19 hectares with a vertical rise of 250 metres to a high point of 1,910 metres, and snow ratings are 65% beginners, 30% intermediate and 5% advanced.
The field is snowboard friendly and hosts regular races between skiers and boarders. Ski lessons and race training are offered through the lodges. Access is from the Desert Road between Waiouru and Turangi. A signpost 22 km north of Waiouru marks the way to a 9 km road climbing up to the base camp. The alpine village is a further 8 km by 4WD.
The quiet friendly atmosphere at Tukino can be a welcome escape from the bustle of city life. On a day of breathtaking blue skies and brilliant snow, a swift, silent downhill run at Tukino is pure delight for the soul.