I was amping to get the first turns in for the season and as a Taranaki virgin, the weekend just gone seemed like a great opportunity to check out the other North Island club field and tick it off the list.
Manganui Ski area had just opened for the season. There was plenty of snow down around the T bar and snow down the access road from the recent epic storm cycle. There was another dusting on the Friday night and Saturday morning cleared to bluebirds with a 4WD or chain restriction on the upper 4km section of the road above the Mountain Lodge. She was a fair haul driving down from the big smoke, and with the access road branching out from Stratford town it's slightly futher away than you think. But the 16km access road is sealed all the way to the carpark, making it probably the easiest accessed club field in NZ.
We arrived just before midday and prepped for the boot pack into the field. It's about 20-30 mins walk to Manganui field from the Stratford Plateau. The first half is a wide road like track, then the second half is a narrow walking track negotiating a narrow gorge that is quite prone to avalanches. (If snow loading is high then the track has to close, making the ski area cut off from public access) There is a goods lift across the gorge at this half way point. To enter the walking track the first section is via a concrete avalanche tunnel, then from there is was a narrow walking track the rest of the way. Ok to walk in snowboard boots, but skiers may want something more comfortable and grippy on the track like tramping boots.
The ticket office is located on the public shelter. They do have eftpos, but carry cash too, just in case. Only the T bar was open this weekend. As expected snowy blizzards and wind arrived in the afternoon, but riding down at the T bar level was not hampered as the weather came in and out, alternating with blue sky. Vis was fine the whole afternoon.
There was not the epic metres and metres of snow as experienced in other areas after the storm, but coverage round the T was good. As a Ruapehu girl, I get nervous where there are thinning patches on the surface of the trail, as this equals rocks! Here at the Manganui T Bar, it's tussock, whew, no problem to ride right over it.
There were plenty of locals and clubbies out getting first turns for the season. I think the longest queue was maybe about 20 people! A couple of people looked like they were touring up high. And the upper tow was being prepped. To get to the steep stuff you'd need to use the upper nutcracker tow (or skin). Research tells me that Taranaki can be icy. Ruapehu people will know what I mean. The terrain up high looks both gnarly and awesome, so when the snow is on - it's ON!
More info on their website here: Ski Taranaki
Now that I have visited I am quite keen to come back for another look. It's good to get the first turns under the belt, and I will be looking forward to hitting Ruapehu as soon as I possibly can! Both sides open 29th June, are you gonna be there?