We can’t get around it...
…the mountain is an extreme environment. Most of the time it’s not a problem, but if you are not prepared for bad weather or other natural phenomenon up to and including a volcanic eruption, Mount Ruapehu can be dangerous. However, just a little bit of preparation can keep things safe.
What you need to bring - your gear checklist
The clothing you wear when you are skiing or boarding is a major safety consideration for you. Good quality clothing will help keep you warm and dry and on the mountain that is a key to both fun and survival.
This article is a basic but comprehensive look at what you need in clothing. Bear in mind that Whakapapa is unusually wet as a ski field, so when you are buying outerwear, look for stuff that has a high waterproofing rating (10,000k or better).
Don’t skimp on clothing for the kids – its bad economy. A cold child will quickly give up making your day less pleasant.
What to Bring
It takes surprisingly little stuff to be comfortable at Otaihape! You will quickly find that we don’t dress up for anything really, so that really simplifies the packing decisions. Here is a list of essentials, and nice-to-haves.
- A backpack to carry everything. Kids about 25-40l adults about 55-60l
- Your snow equipment and clothing
- Sleeping bag and pillow slip. A simple cheap sleeping bag is fine.
- Lodge clothing – underwear, trackpants, a T shirt, jersey, socks. As many of these as you need to feel hygienic during your stay.
- Toiletries and any medications
- Food for all your meals
- A torch (preferably a head lamp) for each person
Nice To Haves
- Slippers or similar for indoor use
- Snack food – nuts, chips, dips, crackers etc
- A book to read on bad days
- Phone, tablet or technology of your choice, but be aware that connectivity is not assured. Don’t forget to bring a charger.
- Plan for simple, quick to cook high energy meals. Remember that everything you consume you will have to carry up, and anything you don’t consume (including rubbish) you will have to carry down. This tends to focus the mind on priorities.
- If you are a family, bring plenty of high energy snack food so the kids don’t drop into a sugar hole during the day. Powdered drinks (Raro or similar) make excellent slushies with snow!
- Powdered milk, dried potato or kumara mash etc are great and will reduce your carried weight significantly.
- Tins and cans are lighter than glass.
- In the middle of the winter season the car parks rarely get above 5 degrees in temperature. Food can be left in a chilly bin in your car so you just bring up what you need each day. This is a lot easier than carrying four or five days of food up at once.
Make sure you are properly prepared
Ruapehu is a Live Volcano
Mt Ruapehu is unique in the fact that it is an active volcano! While this makes for an awesome riding experience, it does bring it’s risks. In order to manage these risks, we have a number of systems in place. The Eruption Detection System (EDS) is operated by DOC and provides an alarm system to both ski areas including audible alarms in high risk zones, radio tones direct to staff two-way radios and text messages to ski area management. For this system to work well on the day, it needs:
- You need to respond when you hear the alarm by moving to high ground! This means moving out of the valleys and onto the ridges as quickly as you can.
- Remain there until ski patrol or other RAL staff member confirm it is safe to move.
- If you hear these warnings, and you are in a building, take shelter and stay there until advised otherwise.
Driving the Bruce Road
The skifield access road, known as the Bruce Road, climbs about 600m from Whakapapa Village to Iwikau Village. Over that distance it can change from a benign sealed road to an ice-covered skating rink buffeted by gale-force winds. At any time the road may be closed if DoC considers the conditions too hazardous.
On a nice day, the drive is easy with great views. At any other time, you need to be prepared.
You can find real-time information on the road conditions on the RAL website and the Waka Kotahi website. The road can close without warning, so this information should be considered advisory only. If the forecast is for an approaching storm, high winds and/or snow, assume the road will be marginal or may close.
When conditions are bad, you may come across cars that are struggling, stopped or even sliding backward on the road. Do not stop with them – maintain momentum and pass them, giving them plenty of space. If you want to help, do it by calling *555 and reporting the problem.
Snow chains are essential, including for 4WD vehicles. Physics and weather don’t care about your central differential or traction control system. Various types of chains are available. Better quality probably costs a bit more but can be more reliable and easier to use. Include a pair of leather work gloves to wear while you fit them – your fingers will thank you later.
- Chains are fitted to the driving wheels. If your vehicle is 4WD, consider getting chains all round.
- Practise fitting them before you travel. When you need them, it will be dark, cold, possibly snowing or worse – this is not a time to be figuring out how they work.
- Fit your chains before you need them. Road Conditions signs are displayed just below the Chateau and at the Bruce Road Barrier (Whakapapaiti River Bridge). If they say chains from Scoria Flat, fit your chains before that point.
- The most common ice hazard on the Bruce Road is at Staircase (just above Scoria Flat). If you have any doubts about conditions, fit chains at Scoria Flat.
Iwikau Village Parking
In the 2021 season, RAL is running a Parking Booking system during peak periods.
Overnight parking is available in locations around Iwikau Village. A map showing those locations is here. Please do not park in any other location if you are staying overnight. RAL has to have space to clear snow and ice from car parks and they don’t need your car in the way.
Getting to the Club
The easiest route to the club is up the Rockgarden via the ski field ticket plaza. Again, Google Maps is your friend. In Google Maps find Otaihape Alpine Club, then select Directions using the Walking mode. This route is about 800m from Carpark 1 to the lodge.
Uphill, it will take 15 minutes if you are fit, 30 minutes if you are encouraging small children.
Watch a video of the route here – COMING SOON
Dress for the conditions
At night or in poor weather, wear your normal snow riding clothing with a warm hat – a beanie or similar. Footwear can either be tramping boots or snowboarding boots. Gumboots, sports shoes etc are dangerous. Leave them at home.
Make sure you stay either side of the ski run. If you are walking up with others, keep your group together. Do not let anyone drop behind or get out of sight.
At night, you must have a torch on at all times so snow groomers can identify you. It’s easier if this is a headlamp.
We have had people get lost on the 800m walk to the lodge. During the day, this is not a real problem, but at night in a storm it is not a simple thing to fix. If you have ANY doubts, stop, regroup and identify where you are. If you need assistance, call the booking officer immediately.