Snowlines: So much more than the mountain

By COLIN MOORE

It takes a sanguine disposition to follow snow sports. Mountain weather is almost by definition infuriatingly unpredictable.

Whether you are climbing, skiing, snowboarding or alpine touring, you need to weather the weather.

But there are times when you need to be prepared to sit it out. That's why climbers tend to be the most easy-going outdoor pursuiters you'll find. It is either that or go loopy over the amount of time they spend in huts or at the mountain base waiting for a fine break in the prevailing weather.

It is much the same when heading off to the snow, unless you are the sort who makes plans as fickle as the weather.

A safer option is to have a few contingency plans so that if you can't go skiing or boarding you can still have an enjoyable time doing something else. Fortunately, the ski areas of Mt Ruapehu, Whakapapa and Turoa, are in the centre of a region packed full of outdoor activities. Here's a sample bad-weather contingency list:

* The Prawn Park, next to Huka Jet on the Wairakei River, is the ideal place to slow down after jet boat excitement.

Enjoy a beautiful lunch and tour the Prawn Hatchery.

Contact: Prawn Park 07 374 8303

* Bungy jump from one of New Zealand's most spectacular bungy sites. Cantilevered 47m over the crystal water of the Waikato River, Taupo Bungy's site will inspire you to finally give it a go.

Twenty minutes south of Waiouru in Taihape is Hightime Bungy. This operation offers New Zealand's highest bungy jump (at 80m) from a swing bridge, and the world's largest adventure flying fox.

Contact: Hightime Bungy 0800 80 BUNGY. Taupo Bungy - 0800 888 408.

* Taupo Tandem Sky diving was the first in New Zealand and is now the largest in the world. Jumping from about about 3000m, you'll experience 20 seconds of freefall followed by a parachute ride against a backdrop of Lake Taupo.

Contact: Taupo Tandem Skydive on 0800 275 934.

* The Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako is 25 minutes north of Taupo. An unspoilt geothermal wonderland, it's a gem of native bush, gushing geysers, boiling mud pools and large silica terraces. Enjoy lunch on the deck overlooking the Waikato River.

Contact: Orakei Korako ph 07 378 3131.

* Enjoy high-speed exhilaration on Taupo's Great Lake Super Jet. The purpose-built, 36-seat, twin-turbo charged catamaran tours the lake at speeds of up to 50 knots.

Contact: Great Lake Superjet ph 0800 27 87 37.

* Mountain boarding is the latest craze. The boards are basically large skateboards with oversized soft wheels allowing them to cover rough terrain. The action is similar to snowboarding.

At Gravity Hill, there's a grassed learners' slope so you can master the basics before moving onto their advanced tracks.

Contact: Kiwi In Motion ph 07 377 4299.

* Taupo is renowned as an excellent trout fishery, and the best fishing is during the winter months.

Contact: Graham Pyatt Trout Fishing 07 386 6032; Greg Catley Flyfishing 07 377 0035; Ika Fishing Lodge 07 386 5538; Sporting Life 07 386 8996; Tongariro Lodge 07 386 7946.

* The region is dotted with excellent golf courses. The 18-hole Taumarunui course is in the country's top 50, and there are also 18-hole courses at Ohakune and Turangi. The Grand Chateau boasts a 9-hole course billed as New Zealand's highest. Taupo has three courses.

Contact: Golf Club Hire - Turangi Tongariro River Rafting 07 386 6409; Taumarunui Big Outdoors Experience 07 896 6497; Ohakune Visitors Centre 06 385 8427; The Grand Chateau 07 892 3809; Wairakei Resort 07 374 8021; Wairakei International 07 374 8152; Wairakei Centennial 07 378 6933; Prawn Park 07 374 8474.

At the adventure mini golf park in Turangi every hole is a feature of the Volcanic Plateau.

Contact: Southern Lake Taupo Adventure Golf 07 386 6929

* Lahar Farms Totally Off Road experience will give you the confidence and the skills to take that vehicle where it was designed to go.

Contact: Lahar Farm 06 385 4136

* Some of the best white water rafting in the country is available in the region. Rock'n'River and Tongariro River Rafting, are Turangi companies. River Valley Lodge raft the Rangitikei River near Taihape.

Contact: Tongariro River Rafting 0800 10 10 24 Rock'n'River Rafting 0800 VOLCANO River Valley Lodge 06 388 1444

* An Eco Tour aboard Tongariro River Raftings Delta Queen is a relaxing and informative experience.

Contact: Tongariro River Rafting 0800 10 10 24.

* For an adventure through native bush to the snowline of Mt Tongariro on 4x4 bikes, join Kiwi Outback Tours.


Contact: Kiwi Outback Tours 0800 MAUNGA.

* Venture down the Whanganui River by jet boat, Canadian Canoe, kayak - or tramp. Either way you'll be spellbound by the natural beauty. Trips range from one hour to 6 days. Some operators provide transport from the mountain areas.

Contact: Adrift Outdoors 0800 GOADRIFT.

* If you're looking for fun and don't mind a little mud, mountain biking might be the answer. The 42 traverse on its own is a four-hour ride requiring average fitness. There are many more trips, and guides are available.

Contact: Arrowheads Lodge 07 892 2827; Tongariro River Rafting 0800 10 10 24; Pukenui Lodge 0800 785 368; The Polyhedron 06 385 8888; Adrift Outdoors 0800 GOADRIFT.

* The Central Plateau's majestic volcanoes look breathtaking from the ground, but they're even more stunning from 3000m up in the air.

Contact: Mountain Air 0800 922 812.

* Feel the power of 360 spins at warp speed in a very fast jetboat to the base of the thundering Huka Falls.

Contact: Huka Jet 0800 HUKAJET.

* Explore the splendour of Ruapehu's forests on horseback. Fun rides are available every day for children, beginners and experienced riders, and there are also kiddie walks and lessons.

Contact: Kiwi Outback Tours 0800 MAUNGA; Ruapehu Homestead 06 385 8799; River Valley Lodge 06 388 1444.

* The last, but by no means least, option is to go for a walk. For more information on walks and tracks in the area, call into the Whakapapa Visitor Centre, open seven days, 07 892 3729, or the Ohakune Ranger Station 06 385 8578, or visit www.doc.govt.nz.

Ruapehu New Zealand

* colinmoore@xtra.co.nz

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