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Car Park Booking System for Mt Ruapehu in 2020

The 2020 season was always going to be a funny old season. Season passes in 2019 went full bore, then this thing called Coronavirus came along, and shut the country down. Then the ski areas thought they could open a little if we moved to Level 2 and did tons of planning. And then we all but eradicated it (currently).

In the meantime, ski areas were trying to do maintenance, employ staff (some of whom could never get here), and figure out how to run their ski areas, probably with far less visitors than normal. Meaning that a profit was maybe just a dream. Opening alone would have been good enough, but most ski areas in NZ have committed to opening for the entire season. Respect!

Ironically one of the hardest hit areas is Mt Ruapehu, or RAL, who operate Turoa and Whakapapa. Ironic as their market is primarily domestic, and they will have pre-sold their season pass allocation. However, Ruapehu is a difficult and expensive mountain to operate on, requiring a great deal of pre-season work (which mostly didn’t happen) and huge amounts of in-season work, de-icing, grooming etc.

So to cut a long story short, they have tons of demand, but a far reduced supply (lift capacity) for the 2020 season. Which has caused a great deal of debate as to how they would manage this, especially with only private shuttles serving the mountain this year.

The result is a car parking booking system for 2020. Essentially “Visitors will be able to book online at on a Wednesday which will include availability for the week ahead.  Car number plates will be scanned on arrival to match to the booking at a controlled entry point on the Bruce Road or Ohakune Mountain Road.  Visitors will also be asked how many people will be in each car, which will help us to manage the reduced Safe Carrying Capacities in place for both ski fields this season.  Whakapapa is limited to 4,500 visitors and Turoa 3,700,”

“The booking system will be open to the public by Wednesday 8 July and in operation by Saturday July 11. The process to book and secure a carpark is free to customers this season.”

So what do we think about this?  

We all know that ski area access is increasingly difficult. On powder days, especially if it’s a weekend, you can’t expect to get a decent park. Why? More skiers, but also, fewer people per car than years ago.  

Clearly then it's a problem that has to be addressed, so actually what could the options be? .

  1. More car parking? But you know, it’s a mountain, and tricky to create flat space.
  2. Minimum car occupancy? Only cars with 3 or more passengers are allowed into the car parks. A system such as helps get more people in cars.
  3. A booking system such as RAL is implementing? But that may prove unpopular, time will tell. 
  4. A road toll/charge? It would need to be high enough to incentivise people to fill the car with people, or free if there are 3 or more people. The money could part cover the cost of managing the road (half let's say) and the rest to an environmental cause such as Protect Our Winters.   
  5. More mountain shuttles? Ideally a minimal charge ($10 per person) if you choose to park at the bottom of the access road, and avoid the hassle of chains etc.  

So, questions? Parking, bookings, good or bad? What about the other options suggested here, what’s your preference? Or do you have another idea on how to ease parking congestion on the mountain?

Or is your strategy just to get up earlier and try beat the “crowd"?

Lastly, this is in interesting development in general for access to National Parks. Possibly this is the first time access has been restricted, and quite conceivably next season, the first time access to a National Park has been explicitly charged for. We’re picking this is going to be a fascinating debate ...   

Drop a comment on our Facebook post, we’re interested!