The broad white flanks of Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand’s largest active volcano, are an irresistible attraction for thousands of snow sport enthusiasts each winter.

Whakapapa is the North Island’s premier ski field and lies within the magnificent Tongariro National Park, a World Heritage Area, just four hours drive from Wellington or Auckland.

This magic mountain is high, wide and handsome, with 550 hectares of patrolled terrain and picture postcard views of the neighbouring volcanoes. Lift access extends to 2,300 metres and the vertical drop is 675 metres. There is serious space and freedom of movement here over wide open terrain. Adventurous skiers and snowboarders will find a fascinating variety of narrow chutes, couloirs and deep gullies in the shape of natural half-pipes.

Whakapapa has joined with nearby Turoa ski field to become one commercial entity known as Mt Ruapehu – the largest snow sports area in the Southern Hemisphere. Shuttle buses run between the fields and you can enjoy the two resorts on the one daily/season pass. A guided 30 minute traverse provides a direct link between the fields on days when snow and weather conditions permit.

The Whakapapa season usually runs from July to November and the snow ratings are 30% beginner, 45% intermediate and 25% advanced. There are 23 lifts – 2 quad and 4 double, 4 T-Bars, as well as platters and learner’s lifts. The field has 30 groomed trails, ample off-piste terrain as well as tobogganing and tubing areas. Also a terrain park, skier/boarder cross course and ski school, plus an outstanding beginner’s area in Happy Valley. Six cafés and two bars provide snacks and meals. Knoll Ridge Chalet is the most elevated licensed restaurant in New Zealand.

Accommodation is available at Whakapapa Village 6 km down the mountain, and at National Park, Turangi, Oakune and Taupo townships. Après ski activities are well catered for and local nightspots pump out entertainment and refreshment well into the wee small hours.