Tukino Skifield (www.tukino.org) is a Club-operated field (“skifield” is the down-under term for ski slope) on the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu (9175 ft/2797 m), a live volcano and the highest mountain on the North Island of New Zealand. It is located within Tongariro National Park, a World Heritage Area, encompassing two other large volcanic cones (Ngauruhoe and Tongariro) plus numerous smaller ones.

The first known and documented skiing on Mt Ruapehu was in July 1913, soon after which the Ruapehu Ski Club was formed, making it one of the oldest outside Europe.

The field is on scoria ash with many boulders, so skiing is rarely possible before the end of June. The core season is usually August-September and the annual snowfall averages about 70”. Tukino, like other nearby skifields, has a mix of green, blue and black terrain.

Tukino’s fixed lift served vertical is 1115’. A portable tow and cat can extend it to almost 2000’, conditions permitting. Neighboring Whakapapa, New Zealand’s largest ski area, has a 2300’ vertical.

Skiing at Tukino is open to the public, but Club members (annual adult membership: $70) enjoy substantial discounts for accommodations and lift-passes. Most maintenance and skifield work is done by volunteers, with a small core of alpine-qualified staff. There are three fully-equipped lodges, each taking up to 32 guests; these are operated by their respective Club owners.

Tukino and the access road are operated and maintained by a coalition of local ski clubs. The upper part of the road requires 4WD.

The Tukino field has two fixed “nutcracker” rope-tows (so-called because the device attached to your tow-belt, used for clamping onto the tow-rope, resembles the traditional implement for opening walnuts etc!) plus a portable rope-tow. Conditions permitting, cat skiing also is available.

Skiing Tukino is a bit old-fashioned and takes some effort (and 4WD) to get there. Staying over requires a sleeping bag and pitching in with meals, cleaning, etc. Accommodation prices at each of the three clubs are reasonable and include meals. The entire area is off-grid, so getting online is possible but challenging. But who needs Internet when conversation and games with other club members and guests make the experience memorable.

Visit club websites for more information on each of the three options: Aorangi Ski Club (www.aorangi.org); Desert Alpine Club (www.desertalpine.club), Tukino Alpine Sports Club (http://tukinoalpinesportsclub.org.nz ).

Tukino ski field
Photo courtesy of tukino.org

3 Comments

  1. Cansnowplow says:

    Interesting story on skiing the Northern Island and the significance of the ski clubs and the club member’s contribution in the operation of their ski area. Maybe the ski areas in the United States can revamp and adopt NZ
    methodology in operating their ski areas with the help of “clubs” in order to bring their lift ticket price back in line with the rest of the world. Please tell us more about affordable NZ skiing!

  2. Gary Henderson says:

    Here’s a link to the full list of NZ skifields, with Club fields indicated. As you will see, there are only two Club fields in Te Ika a Maui/North Island, with a large number in South Canterbury district of Te Wai Pounamu/South Island.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ski_areas_and_resorts_in_New_Zealand

  3. Patti+Farkas says:

    Interesting article, but could have used WAY more pix!

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