When I told people I was going skiing on a ski field that wasn’t Whakapapa or Turoa, I was met with blank stares or confused looks. Tukino ski field is basically unheard of – it is by far the less known of the three ski fields on Mt Ruapehu. This is partly because both Whakapapa and Turoa are owned by the same company (Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Limited), whereas Tukino is dominated by the three ski clubs who call it home. So Tukino is a completely different set up and vibe to commercial ski fields.
However, Tukino is still completely open to the general public, and the clubs are also welcoming new members all the time. This is on the other side of Mt Ruapehu to Whakapapa or Turoa, so it is a great day trip to take from Taupo as well.
Because it is such an obscure place to visit, I couldn’t find any information online (apart from the Tukino website itself, which wasn’t always clear) about what to expect there or how to get there. So I decided to write this guide to Tukino Ski Field to make it a bit easier for those who visit after me, as well as to let you know what I thought of it.
Ski season at tukino ski field
The ski season generally lasts from June until the end of September, but it is weather dependant. If you’re not sure, you can check out their website to see if they are open. Sometimes, even during winter, the rope tow might still not be operating due to bad weather conditions.
Even if the skifield is closed, you can still stay in the lodges up the mountain, if you wish.
Price of Ski Passes at Tukino Ski Field:
We scored a half price deal on Grab One, so make sure you check that out first. Otherwise, the day passes are:
- $65 for an adult
- $50 for a student
- $35 for a child.
TIP: If you are planning to head up to the slopes for several days or stay in a lodge up the mountain, you will be much better off to become a member of one of the three Tukino clubs. This way you can enjoy the discounted prices they offer to members.
Tukino ski field clubs:
Annual membership fee:
- $70 for an adult
- $50 for a student
- $100 for 3+ members of the same family
Accommodation for adult members is $44.50 per night during Winter. Children under 5 stay for free. This price includes meals as well. They also have options for Summer lodging.
Annual membership fee:
- $80 for an adult
- $50 for a child
- $200 for a family of any number of siblings
Note: Apart from Tukino, Aorangi ski club also covers Whakapapa Ski Field and Turoa Ski Field. The prices listed above are only for membership to their Tukino club.
Lodging at Aorangi Ski Club is $37 per night for adult members.
Annual membership fee:
- $75 for an adult
- $40 for a child (under 18)
- $200 for a family
- $50 for a student or pensioner
Note: you have to download and fill out a form and they only accept new members between the 1st of January to the 31st of May.
Accommodation starts from $32 per night for adult members, including meals. Children under 5 stay for free.
As you can see, the membership fees are actually quite affordable and are really worth it if you are planning to spend more than a day or two up the mountain. They also all have really good rates for family memberships which can save you a lot of money per person. All three lodges are within close proximity to each other and to the ski slope, so you can get up and hit the slopes straight away.
Getting to Tukino Ski Field
Getting to Tukino Ski Field is probably one of the hardest parts about going to Tukino. Because the ski field is in such an isolated area, arriving there is no easy feat. Here are some of the reasons why it’s such a challenge.
1. The road leading to the ski field doesn’t exist according to Google Maps
As the sadly technology-dependant millennials that we are, my partner and I rely on GPS to get basically anywhere. Unfortunately, in this particular case it won’t work as Tukino gets so little attention that even Google isn’t very well informed about its location. So, my advice: do not try to Google the address or put ‘Tukino ski field’ into your Google Maps (unless you want to end up in the middle of nowhere). Instead, what you should do is drive along Desert road until you see the signs for Tukino Access Road. Sounds old fashioned, but they really are hard to miss. This will involve driving along this road for 46km if you’re coming from Turangi, and 22km if you’re coming from Waiouru. So calculate the distance and look out for the signs and you’ll be alright.
2. You need a 4WD to access the ski field – if you don’t have one you have to book a shuttle
If you don’t have a 4WD, do not attempt to drive up to the ski field. It’s a steep, narrow and dangerous road, even IN a 4WD. What you should do instead is book a shuttle, which basically means a staff member will come down in a van to fetch you.
How to book a shuttle to Tukino Ski Field:
- Call 06 387 6294 or 0800 005 446. If you’re travelling from the south, call them when you reach Waiouru. If you’re travelling from the north, call when you are at Turangi.
- Call again when you are turning off State Highway onto Tukino Access Rd. It is important that you call at that point because after that, you might not have coverage on your cellphone. It is quite sporadic around there
- Drive to the carpark on Tukino Access Road and wait for the shuttle
The shuttle ride costs $20 per adult.
3. Even the 2WD road is not very pleasant.
The “2WD road” that will take you to the carpark to be picked up is not the best road for cars. It is uncovered, rocky and uneven. At some points you might have to drive through a stream and you have to be constantly on the lookout for rocks in your path. The 6km drive took us about half an hour to complete (and it definitely wasn’t due to the traffic!).
What to expect up at Tukino Ski Field
Congratulations, you’ve made it through the ordeal of finding and getting to the ski field! Now what?
food options at tukino
There are no food outlets at Tukino Ski Field. I recommend you to pack your own lunch if you’re going on a day trip, otherwise meals are usually provided if you are staying in a lodge. You can still purchase hot drinks and packets of chips or chocolate bars from the ticket office, but the options are very limited.
tukino Ski Fields & Ski Lift
At Tukino, the only way you can get up the mountain is by nutcracker rope tows. This means you wear a metal contraption around your hips and attach it to a rope which pulls you up the mountain. My first time using a nutcracker rope tow was at Tukino, and honestly, it is difficult to get the hang of. They have some staff there who might help you and tell you how to do it the first couple of times, but after that you’re basically left to your own devices.
Tukino has a number of different slopes; the higher up you get, the more advanced the slopes will be. However, again, the only way to get up to the higher slopes is by using the nutcracker, so if you haven’t got the hang of that you’ll be confined to the lower slope.
If you’re a beginner, you should stay on the lower slope anyway, as this is where the only beginner trails at Tukino Ski Field are located. The majority of the trails they have further up the mountain are intermediate trails.
Learn to Ski at Tukino
They do offer ski lessons at Tukino, which you can purchase from the ticket office when you’re there. An hour group lesson is $45 per adult (discount for students to $30 and children to $20). If you’re wanting a private lesson just for you, you can purchase one for $70. These lessons are available for all ability levels.
Cat Skiing at Tukino
Something unique about Tukino Ski Field is that they offer an activity called ‘cat skiing’, which is where you get taken in a snowcat from the top of the highest nutcracker tow all the way up to the highest point of Tukino, and then you get a guided run down the mountain with your skis or snowboard. This is only for intermediate or advanced skiers or snowboarders.
This experience can be purchased for an extra $35 for members ($40 for non-members). They do have a discount deal if you purchase 5 at once, however.
Bathroom at tukino
There is a bathroom at the bottom of the skifield. When I say ‘bathroom’, what I mean is a small shed with a long drop toilet. It’s pretty primitive, but the service is ther.
Ski Hire near tukino
There is no ski or snowboard hire service available at Tukino Ski Field. What you will have to do is either bring your own equipment, or hire it before you go up. You can find ski and snowboard hire places in Turangi if you’re travelling from the North and Rangataua if you’re travelling from the South.
Where to stay near Tukino Ski Field
As I mentioned above, the accommodation rates at the lodges are pretty affordable, especially if you’re already a member of one of them. That said, if you don’t want to stay up in the mountain, you can stay in a nearby town and still be able to enjoy a full day on the slopes.
The biggest nearby town is Taupo, which is only an hour’s drive from the turnoff to Tukino Access Road.
Turangi is the closest town which also has ski hire outlets, and it is only half an hour away from the access road.
Should I visit Tukino Ski Field?
If you’re trying to decide whether you should visit Tukino, here are some things to consider.
Benefits of skiing at Tukino
Cheapest option for skiing on Mt Ruapehu
To start off with, Tukino Ski Field has by far the cheapest lift prices, with Turoa and Whakapapa ranging from $85-$125 for a single day pass.
Tukino Ski Field is good because it is accessible from the east side of the mountain, whereas Turoa and Whakapapa are on the west side. If you’re coming from Taupo, Napier or Palmerston North it will save you a lot of time to go to Tukino Ski Field instead of one of the other two ski fields.
Tukino is also a lot less crowded than any other ski field on Mt Ruapehu. Because it is less known and not as easy to access, very few people visit Tukino Ski Field. Whereas in Whakapapa and Turoa, you have to constantly watch out for and dodge other people, in Tukino you can basically ski or snowboard in peace.
Change of scenery
Since Mt Ruapehu has the only real ski slopes in the North Island, if you’re a North Islander who likes to ski or snowboard, you might be bored to tears of Whakapapa and Turoa by now. Why not try something new – different scenery, different vibes – and spend some time at Turangi next winter?
Shortcomings of Tukino:
Less options for ski and snowboard hire
There’s absolutely no option to rent any form of ski or snowboard equipment at Tukino Ski Field. The only thing they give you is the nutcracker harness when you purchase your lift passes.
Not only that, but the nearest outlets which offer ski hire are a fair bit more expensive than what you can find in Ohakune. So even though you’re paying less for the lift passes than in other places, you will probably actually end up paying more for your equipment.
We found the staff to be a little aloof; they mostly seemed that they would rather be doing something else than helping us. There was no-one attending the rope tows most of the time, which is a hazard in itself. There were quite a few people struggling with how to use it – children and beginners – and most of the time we were just left to our own devices.. Also, at the end of the day they all just sort of disappeared without saying anything. We had to go knocking on the lodge doors to find someone who could take us back down the mountain. This lack of customer service (and just service in general) was one of the biggest let downs.
If you don’t have your own 4WD, you have to pay an extra $20 per person for your ride up and down the mountain. This is another thing to budget in to the price of your trip. As I mentioned, it is a bit difficult to find the road to the carpark – which is not well maintained at all.
Ski lift problems
The nutcracker rope tow system is one of the most primitive types of ski lift. At Tukino, there are no chair lifts or even poma lifts. If you’re a beginner or you haven’t seen a rope tow before, you’ll spend at least half a day figuring out how to use it.
Is tukino ski field worth it? My Recommendation
In all honesty, Tukino Ski Field unfortunately comes with a lot of inherent problems. It is cheaper, yes, but it’s easy to see why. It is lacking a lot of the basic amenities and services that you see at other ski areas, and come to expect when you go skiing.
To be completely honest, Tukino is just less than the other options out there. Less to do, fewer places to go, less service, the list could go on. It’s a very no-frills snow experience, you could say. I guess I’m used to a lot of commercialisation and a lot of distractions around when I go skiing. Without that, it feels very primitive and isolated.
I would recommend Tukino only to people who really want to get off the beaten path and experience skiing in a different way. It is really only suited to intermediate to advanced skiers or snowboarders who are looking for a change of scenery from the conventional slopes. Otherwise, if you want to visit Mt Ruapehu, just stick to Whakapapa and Turoa. It will make your trip a lot easier, and leave you more time to enjoy yourself.
>> Have you been to Mt Ruapehu? Would you ski at Tukino? Tell me in the comments!
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