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Jul 28

A North Island Holiday

On Sunday Megan and I got back from our mid-year holiday. We only took three days leave, but we felt like we crammed a lot into that time.

On Tuesday night last week after work we hit the road from Auckland on our way to our accomodation at National Park in the central plateau.

Map of route from Auckland to National Park

After an early rise (blimmin’ 6am, is this supposed to be a holiday?) we breakfasted and headed off to get skis.

We had been watching the weather forecasts intently as they were pretty ominous. We had been planning on taking a holiday this week, but Megan’s beloved employers had stuffed up the leave arrangements, and so she volunteered to take her leave early. It’s just our luck that this week’s weather was beautiful.

We were soon fully equipped, breakfasted and ready to head into action. Shortly after nine we were up on the mountain ready to get into it.

I was pretty much a beginner (having skied once when I was about 7) and Megan is pretty experienced, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to work.

We did a couple of runs down Happy Valley (pictured below) which isn’t as crap as people say. I think this had something to do with the 1.8m base. I don’t really know what that means, but after looking at some other pics of Happy Valley I think I understand. For instance, this pic was taken at the beginning of the season (admittedly 2004 but I figure valleys don’t change much in two years). The chairlift that you can see in the centre on reasonably sized hill is now almost exactly at the height of slope. So take a reference point most of the way up that hill and imagine snow all the way up and down the valley at that level. What that means is that all the little valleys and slopes that exist in the picture don’t exist now. With a 1.8m base, there is pretty much just one big flat plain to ski down.

Whakapapa: Happy Valley

But back to the story. After a couple of runs down Happy Valley I was feeling ok about things, and I didn’t want to hold up Megan too much, so I decided I’d give the next level slope a go. The Rock Garden. The Ruapehu ski fields have three categories of slopes, green (easiest), blue (a bit harder) and black (death wish).

As it turns out, Happy Valley is the only green slope on Whakapapa. So I ended up tackling a blue slope when I clearly wasn’t ready for it. I fell on my ass about a hundred times, but worse was absolutely exhausted by the effort to constantly slow down and repeatedly putting on my skies. Not the biggest success.

After trying again with a slight improvement, we decided to break for lunch. By this point I was cold, wet (it had been snowing all day) and exhausted. Luckily, we couldn’t refund the ski passes so I spent the rest of the afternoon zooming up and down Happy Valley and had a great time.

So the moral of the story is, if it’s your first day skiing, Happy Valley is great (much better than the beginners slopes on Turoa) but you should plan to spend your second or third days at Turoa.

On Thursday the weather was crap (I think both fields were closed all day) and Friday wasn’t much better. So on Friday we left National Park and travelled down to Palmerston North to see Megan’s family.

National Park to Palmerston North route map

Megans Mum’s birthday is near at hand so Megan and her sister took her to see Swan Lake on Ice at the St James theatre in Wellington. Me and my father-in-law wandered around the Wellington City and Sea Museum, which was pretty interesting.

Palmerston North to Wellington Route Map

So Sunday very quickly arrived, and with the weather looking reasonable, we decided to take our last chance to use our ski passes and got up at 5:30 and drove to Turoa.


Palmerston North to Turoa Route Map

We had a great day of skiing, and bailed at about 2:30 to head back to Auckland. We arrived at about 8:30 completely exhausted, just the way you should be when you get back from a holiday I guess.


  1. db

    Heh, good effort on the maps.

    I seem to remember that last time I was at Whakapapa (which was not recently) there was one other beginner/intermediate run about half way up call Hutt Flats or something. It offered a long broad easy run, and because most of the beginners were in Happy Valley and the pros weren’t touching it, you pretty much got it to yourself. Was a great find! Maybe it got wiped out in the last eruption or something.

    Still, Happy Valley is pretty good for variety. (The only problem is all the freakin’ people there.) I remember someone had made some small jumps at the bottom, which were wicked, except when I came at one off-centre, landed sideways, and the person behind me skied over my leg. Not so cool. Totally worth it though. Good learning experience (Don’t fuck up!).

  2. Pete

    Yeah, actually I think that you’re right. Megan and I did go up that slope, but it wasn’t that long (perhaps something to do with some reconfiguration of the runs or the snow base) and had a rope tow which is a nuisance cause it’s reasonably hard to hold on (and does damage to your gloves).

    Btw, happy valley is a chairlift and platter now, not rope and platter as it was (and is in the photo).

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