For 11 days in the middle of the July school holidays, it snows in Tongariro North Domain, as Taupō undergoes a festive makeover.

"There's 11 days and 32 events," said Nicola Carter, Taupō Winter Festival director.

"For 10 nights we've got the Unison light hub on, for two weeks we've got the Wairakei Ice Rink here and then for three or four key days in the middle weekend of the July school holidays we've got a whole lot of things happening on the domain."

From bumper balls to drive-in movies, there's plenty to do. The team at Mt Ruapehu even bring in real snow so children who can't get up to the mountain can still throw a snowball.


"It started out as three days with the light trail going on a few extra days and we've been able to extend that each year to now have an 11-day festival," Carter said.

The festival gives locals some winter cheer while appealing to tourists as well.

"We do have lots of visitors to Taupō over the year and during winter there's not as much to do as in summer. Obviously, it's a bit too cold to go and jump in the lake and do some of the outdoor activities.

"If you can get up the mountain, and it's open and the snow's going well then that's great. On the days that's not happening we really wanted to cater for those that are in town and looking for other things to do."

Besides providing entertainment, the festival also gives back to the wider Taupō community, through the One Taupō Trust which raises money to give back to families in the area with sick children and financial hardship because of that.

It's not as grand as Taupō festivals of old, but mayor David Trewavas says it's more manageable at this size.

"We used to have a major undertaking where the expenditure was very, very high. A wonderful festival but it was quite large and expensive to operate. The current winter fest is just a beautiful model to be honest.

"It's not a Rolls Royce winter festival it's just a great, achievable community event that lots of people from all over New Zealand come and enjoy."


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