Mt Ruapehu's first ever gondola opened today, ferrying eager visitors 1.8km up Whakapapa.

The $25 million gondola made its maiden voyage taking sightseers up the mountain at about 10am today, but skiers and snowboarders will also be able to travel up the mountain in warmth and comfort once more snow falls and the upper ski fields can open.

Take flight! The Sky Waka Gondola is open!🚠 . Our early birds scored their first ever cabin tee’s and skywaka goodies...

Posted by Mt Ruapehu, Whakapapa & Tūroa Ski Areas on Monday, 1 July 2019

The Sky Waka travels 1.8km between the top of the Bruce Base area to the Knoll Ridge Chalet on Whakapapa and can transport 2400 people per hour during peak times.

There are 50 cabins which each hold up to 10 people. The cabins have floor-to-ceiling glass, ski racks, audio, lighting and leather seats.


The opening of the gondola was delayed by a month due to technical challenges.

In June 2018, Taupo District Council bought $1 million of investment bonds in the Ruapehu Alpine Lifts project, attracting funding from the Government's Regional Growth Fund, Ruapehu District Council and iwi.

Taupo mayor David Trewavas said it was a great sound investment that would be a game changer for the tourism industry.

"The gondola brings a whole new dynamic to Mt Ruapehu, making it an all-year-round destination, with something spectacular for families and visitors in the summer months, as well as skiers in the winter."

The Stoked Podcast interviewed Whakapapa General Manager Jono Dean earlier in the season - here's everything you need to know about the ski field's incredible new feature.

Warning: May contain some coarse language and adult themes.