Published July 03, 2022 by with 0 comment

Matariki Weekend Winter Trip to Whakapapa Ski Field Area and Raetihi Whakapapa Travel Guide for Beginners!


During the Matariki weekend this year, we have decided to visit the Whakapapa Ski Area in Mt Ruapehu. My elder daughter wanted to see snowfall and we also wanted to enjoy the snow. So, we booked a nice holiday home in Raetihi which is just around 50 minutes drive from the Whakapapa Ski field. We had used Bookabach which is a popular website in New Zealand and Australia to book accommodation in different holiday destinations. (if you want to book yours for your New Zealand holiday, you can have a look here Bookabach).

If you are visiting Whakapapa for the first time, then you should check all the information below and this is a must. Otherwise, you might not be able to go up to the Ski field cause the road is weather dependent and not always open during winter. 

Whakapapa Travel Guide for Beginners:💁

The best time to visit Whakapapa is during New Zealand winter which is from June to August when the temperature becomes very low on both Islands and snows in some parts of the South and North Islands. From my personal experience, I have heard a lot of people have faced problems cause they did not check the road and weather conditions.  

The roads are not always open during winter. If there is heavy snowfall or a polar blast, the road gets closed. Or sometimes they open it for visitors but you need to have snow chains to drive up. 

So, please plan your trip in advance and have all the information in one please and browse when you need it. If this is your first time for Mt Ruapehu, Whakapapa Ski field, or Turoa ski field then this article will immensely help you with the information. 

First of all check the weather and road conditions for the websites below: (this is a big help and provides live information):

Sky Waka Gondola will take you to 2020m above sea level

Roads and Parking information:🗻🚗

Road to go to Whakapapa Ski field - The bruce road gives you access to the Whakapapa Ski field and also goes in front of the iconic Hotel the Chateau Tongariro Hotel. Whakapapa Ski field is where the Sky Waka Gongola and the famous Knoll Ridge Chalet restaurant area (situated at 2020m above sea level and give you the highest dining experience in New Zealand!)
Road to go to Turoa Skifield - The Ohakune road will lead you to Turoa Skifield. 

Both the roads above are controlled by the Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) during the winter season and this is their decision on whether to keep the roads:

Closed - basically to all traffic. Normally happens during heavy snowfalls. 
Restricted - means if you can drive 4WD vehicles or 2WD vehicles with chain or both 4WD and 2WD vehicles with chain. 
Open - to all traffic. Normally open before June without any issue but please always check the road status from the above link. 

If it snows, the roads become dangerous so you just need to have chains with your 4WD or 2WD vehicles. Check the road conditions if the road is closed or restricted with snow chains or only for 4WD or Open - do not plan your journey on the day before checking the road status. 👽

So, How to Get Snow Chains?⛓

Well, I am not trying to sell any product here but if you are planning to go to Whakapapa, please buy your snow chains before your journey. You might end up renting snow chains while going up to the ski field and it will cost you almost the price of a new pair of snow chains. There are a lot of places like Repco or SuperCheap Autos where you can get nice snow chains for your journey. Or you can try some used snow chains in Trademe or in the Facebook marketplace. I got mine from the Facebook marketplace. You do not need a new pair right, just an old one will work fine. 💪


When we visited Whakapapa in 2022 we did not have to book any parking in advance. The parking is first-come-first-served basis. The place becomes quite busy on Saturday cause a lot of people start from Auckland or other parts of the North Island on Friday and they come to visit on Saturday. But Sunday is not that busy and weekdays are reasonable. So this will not be very difficult for you to get a parking place if you plan on a Sunday or weekdays. But I believe you will still be able to find parking on a Sunday but you might need to walk uphill a bit!✌

Whakapapa Ski Field

Buses and Shuttles:😐

If for some reason, you are not driving or the road is restricted and you do not have a pair of snow chains, you still have options available. You can take Bus/Shuttle to go to Whakapapa ski field. You can find bus and shuttle information here Whakapapa Shuttles. Thanks to the website and they have all information covered. 

Buying Passes for Sky Waka Gondola, Ski & Ride Facilities, and Rentals for Sking:💰

We did not ski on our journey but someone was checking for Ski gear rentals and all were sold out. So, I recommend booking yours before you go there. You can get the passes online here Ski Ride Whakapapa Day Passes and Ski, Snowboard, and Snow clothing rental information here

At the base of Sky Waka Gondola, Whakapapa

Sightseeing Locations:⛄

There are no specific sightseeing locations. When it snows, the whole mountain gets covered with white snow which looks spectacular. But I personally recommend you to do the Sky Waka Gondola ride (price is Adult $59 and Youth+Child $34 and Kids from 0-4 are free! When we were there, we noticed during the weekend the price is $10 less on each weekend). This is amazing! The one-way trip is around 10 minutes and it takes you to 2020m above sea level. The Knoll Ridge Restaurant, New Zealand's highest restaurant is over there as well where you can have a buffet lunch and the view from the restaurant is spectacular. Also, there is a nice place in front of the restaurant where you and the kids can play in the snow. You can take some beautiful pictures as well. Most of my pictures were taken in front of the restaurant. 


We had booked our accommodation through  Bookabach. If you want to stay very close to the Whakapapa Ski field, you can stay at the iconic Chateau Tongariro Hotel (4 star) which is just at the base of the hill. But, if you like to book a holiday home, you might need to book one either in Raetihi, Okahune, or Turangi. This is the exact link of the house that we had booked.

In brief, plan your trip ahead. Book your accommodation, if any snow chain is required buy a pair or 2, if you are not going to drive up the hill, book a shuttle. If you are going to ski, book your gear online and enjoy the trip! 😃 

Snow at the top base station of Sky Waka Gondola Whakapapa
Must need hot drins and the highest dining experience at the Knoll Ridge Chalet 

Snowfall in front of The Knoll Ridge Chalet

View of Makatote Viaduct - one of the important engineering infrastructures in New Zealand, close to Raetihi

View from the Piriaka Lookout

Small river visible from the Piriaka Lookout

Our holiday home at Raetihi


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