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Family Skiing the North Island of New Zealand

Ski and snowboard instruction, sledding, snowball battles, and snowman building are just a few of the activities available for a fun family winter holiday. Here are 13 tips for a special snowy holiday:

1. New Zealand larges ski areas

Whakapapa and Turoa are the two largest commercial ski areas in New Zealand – yep there’s more skiable terrain on these two ski areas than the South Island’s Cardrona, The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt all put together!

Skiing at Whakapapa New Zealands largest ski area with Knoll Ridge Cafe in background
Skiing at Whakapapa New Zealands largest ski area with Knoll Ridge Cafe in background

2. Access to the snow is easy

Take the hassle out of getting to the snow with daily mountain transport from Taupo and Turangi to Whakapapa (return).The Mt Ruapehu snow shuttle departs daily from the Snow Depot right in the heart of Taupo town, so you can sort all your gear hire and passes before you leave – all you have to worry about is jumping on board and enjoying the stunning volcanic scenery along the way.

VaughanBrookfied MtRuapehu shuttle
Mt Ruapehu shuttle, New Zealand

3. Geothermal wonders, hot pools and bubbling mud

Who doesn’t love to soak away the aches and pains of a day spent on the snow, or just relax and unwind? Taupo is a volcanic, geothermal wonderland with natural thermal pools perfect for a soak at the end of a long day. The kids will love you for it!

Hot Pools Lake Taupo
Hot Pools Lake Taupo

4. New Zealand’s largest beginner ski area

Whakapapa Ski Area is home to Happy Valley, New Zealand’s largest beginner ski and snow play area. Here you can spend the day experiencing the best that a family winter holiday has to offer with ski and snowboard lessons, sledding, snowball fights and building snowmen!

Kids at Whakapapa Ski Area

5. Family-friendly apres ski

There’s a whole lot going on in Taupō after a day on the slopes! Come and see the town come to life with fairy light-lined streets and cosy bars and restaurants with hearty winter food menus, mulled wine and crackling fires to sit beside. There’s everything from craft beer and wood-fired pizza in lakefront pubs to gourmet cuisine in top restaurants and family-friendly dining throughout the town. Many of these establishments offer spectacular sunset views and a vista of the massive Lake Taupō with the mountains of Tongariro National Park beyond.

Family at Replete Cafe Taupo
Family at Replete Cafe Taupo

6. Discover an ancient and spiritual landscape

The ski areas of Whakapapa and Turoa are located within the Tongariro National Park – which in 1990 was declared a World Heritage site in recognition of its outstanding natural characteristics. But it wasn’t just recognised once, the Park was then granted Cultural World Heritage status in 1993 in recognition of its cultural significance and history. The park is one of only 29 sites in the world with Dual World Heritage status.

Snowboarder Whakapapa Ski Area Mt Ngauruahoe Winter
Snowboarder Whakapapa Ski Area Mt Ngauruahoe Winter

7. You are skiing an active volcano!

Whakapapa and Turoa Ski Areas sit proudly on Mt Ruapehu, the largest of the three volcanoes located within the renowned Tongariro National Park. The volcanic landscape lends itself to brilliant terrain features for skiers and snowboarders – think natural halfpipes, chutes and wide-open bowls that stem from centuries-old lava flows.

Whakapapa Ski Area Mt Ruapehu 1
Whakapapa Ski Area Mt Ruapehu

8. New Zealand’s highest café

The Knoll Ridge Café on Whakapapa Ski Area is New Zealand’s highest café! At 2020m above sea level, with breathtaking views of the Pinnacles and valley below this award-winning architecturally designed café was awarded the Design Curial Best Designed Café in the World, 2015. If you’re not skiing or boarding, you can access the Knoll Ridge Café by scenic chairlift ride. We think it’s definitely worth the visit!

Beautiful lookout from the top of Mount Ruapehu

9. Discover Middle Earth

Some scenes of the fictional Mordor and Mount Doom in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy were filmed on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu. Discover this filming location and impressive views towards Mt Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom), located just a short 15-30-minute walk from the base area of Whakapapa.

Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park

10. Perfect terrain for all levels

Whakapapa and Turoa Ski Areas are a wonderland for skiers, snowboarders and anyone just wanting to play in the snow or go for a toboggan ride. More advanced skiers will love the long, continuous runs full of natural terrain features that stem from the mountain’s volcanic nature, and the big open bowls of the backcountry ski areas. Beginner and intermediate skiers will feel at home on the lower slopes and in the dedicated beginner areas.

Two children sledding in Happy Valley 1
Two children sledding in Happy Valley

11. New Zealand’s longest ski season

Thanks to a brand new state-of-the-art ‘Snow Factory’, which has the ability to make snow in temperatures up to 25˚C, Whakapapa now boasts the longest ski season in Australasia. Happy Valley is scheduled to open on 2 July, with the 2018 season planned to go right through until 22 October. Spring skiing can be the most fun you have all season, with blue sky days, spring snow, shorter lift queues and discounts on lift passes.

Happy Valley making snow
Joyful children at Happy Valley

12. Pumice is the new gold

It’s not only the ski areas that benefit from brilliant terrain as result of volcanic activity. Derived from one of the greatest volcanic eruptions ever known, the region’s free-draining pumice soil means excellent cycling and mountain biking conditions year-round – even in the middle of winter. And if it’s golfing and hiking you’re into, you can thank that super volcano for great conditions also. No muddy puddles!

Tongariro River Trail Martyn Davies
Girl Cycling the Tongariro River Trail

13. Off mountain activities on tap

Taupō has a huge compliment of off-mountain activities that are different to any other resort town in New Zealand. Discover adrenalin sports like jet boating, white water rafting, bungy jumping and sky diving, as well as scenic lake and sunset cruises, sailing trips and kayaking adventures on Lake Taupō. You’ll find multiple geothermal hot pools throughout the region, and mountain biking and golf are popular winter activities. The many walking tracks in the area will take you on a journey to discover the stunning landscape, mountain views and native forests that surround the lake.

Sailing Lake Taupo with mountains in background


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Winter Whales 300x250px

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