Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Skiing and boarding on Ruapehu

Well we finally managed to get up to the snow. We chose a great weekend, but then it appears so did everyone else, as there was a record number of people on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. It didn't seem all that promising from down at the bottom of the mountain as we were sitting in the cloud and it was a misting drizzle, but as we drove up the mountain we came out above the clouds and in to the glorious sunshine. It was quite strange to look down from the mountain on to a blanket of cloud with the only landmarks sticking out being the main north island volcanoes Ngarahoe, Tongariro and Taranaki in the distance.

Volcanoes Ngarahoe and Tongariro sticking up above the clouds

We didn't get the best night sleep on the Friday night as most of the accommodation was booked out so we managed to get a couple of beds in an overcrowded and noisy backpackers. So Aaron was not a happy camper in the morning. As a result we got up to the Whakapapa resort pretty early and we were on the slopes by about 8:30am. Aaron has decided that he wants to learn to snowboard so he has invested in some second hand gear, so he headed off to the beginners slope first thing. I jumped on my skis and went for a bit of an explore and did quite a few runs before the crowds arrived. I met up with Aaron at around 10:30am and he was much happier and feeling quite confident on the snowboard. So I fetched my snowboard from the car and off we went up the mountain.
Aaron - the sruffy snowboarder

The crowds started to build up - but I was very impressed with the organisation of the queues and the good behaviour of the punters. Those Italians and French could learn a thing or two from the Kiwis. However, to be fair even though there were long queues, they were nothing like what I have experienced in Europe during the peak season, so the longest we had to wait was about 15 minutes (20 minutes when one of the lifts stalled and they had to get the mechanics in to fix it).

So we spent the rest of Saturday cruising around the slopes of Whakapapa (pronounced Fakapapa). Aaron really improved his boarding and was really getting the hang of it by the end of the day.

After a night in a rather run down - but much quieter pub/hotel, we spent the next day at the Turoa Ski field on the other side of Ruapehu. The drive up to Turoa is quite different from Whakapapa as you go through some pretty spectacular lush forests - not quite what you expect for driving up to a ski field. Again the weather didn't look promising from the bottom of the mountain but as we drove up we could see flashes of blue sky above and eventually we came out above the clouds.

We both started off on snowboards and went exploring. There were a few icy sections in places - but we found a few runs that were challenging and with softer snow. Unfortunately my snowboard binding broke just as I felt I was improving, so I had to go and get my skis on. By this stage Aaron was doing really well and while I was fetching my skis he even came down a couple of black runs (they don't have red runs here - so these are the equivalent of reds in Europe). He claimed that he boarded much better when I wasn't around watching him.... hmmmm....
Anyway by the end of the weekend he had progressed from almost complete beginner to a pretty good intermediate snowboarder (with a rather bruised and battered body!)

Hopefully we'll get another weekend of skiing in before the end of the season so he can practise his new boarding skills.

Ruapehu unveiled as the clouds lifted on our drive home.

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