We’re very fortunate we have three ski villages on Mt Ruapehu in New Zealand’s Central Plateau region.
I spent my teens at Tukino hanging out for weeks at a time, living in the communal lodge and skiing some random terrain.
The ski field is smaller than Whakapapa adn Turoa and some people think it’s the poor cousin, but it depends on how you view skiing. I think it’s a little gem especially if you don’t like crowds. On a good day there are about 150 people at Tukino, whereas over the hill at Turoa and Whakapapa there can be 5000 on each field.
Tukino is situated on the eastern slopes of the mountain and is reached from the Desert Rd, 35km from Waiouru. It’s not a private ski field but it’s different from Whakapapa and Turoa. It’s run by the three clubs on the mountain, Tukino Mountain Club Association (TMCA). 4WD vehicles are required to get up the mountain or you can catch a shuttle (on request) operating from Waiouru or the Tukino ski field carpark. Like most club fields in the country, they are not as developed or as swish as the commercial fields. The mountain lifts are rope tows with nut-crackers (a metal device that grips the rope).
Back in the day you needed to be a member of one of the three clubs at Tukino but today they welcome everyone for a day’s skiing or to enjoy one of their “ski and stay” packages in the lodges on the mountain.
They also have a unique adventure not available on the other ski fields – cat skiing. Groups of skiers can access another two-thirds of the mountain by getting a ride on the back of the grooming cat to the ski field boundary. From there, guided groups ski down the mountain.
However, if you prefer to ride a chairlift and relish a good coffee and sushi for lunch, then Turoa or Whakapapa may be for you. These fields are better developed with more facilities and good access roads although chains can be required. They are both run by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts.