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Visitor reviews for Mauna Kea Ski Resort
July 06, 2015
Office of Maunakea Management from United States
Maunakea is not a ski resort, as such it does not offer the amenities of a ski resort. There is no public transportation to/from the summit, no food service, and public restrooms are very limited. Mobile phone communications are extremely limited and emergency services are over 1 hour away. High altitude travel is known to present health risks and snow play (skiing, sledding, etc.) is at the person’s own risk. Commercial skiing tours are prohibited. The ski patrol no longer operates. As the mountain is culturally significant and the cinder cones are wēkiu bug habitat, an endemic species found only on
Maunakea cinder cones, the University of Hawaiʻi (the land manager) does not promote skiing. For more information, please visit our website: malamamaunakea.org
Mauna Kea Ratings
Overall: 3.8. Based on 4 votes and 5 reviews. Vote
(1) At least one overnight stop, (2) requires a whole day, (3) requires more than half a day – you may have time for a few turns (4) arrive by lunchtime and ski all afternoon, (5) there is a main airport within an hour of Mauna Kea.
Public Transport: 3.0
(1) There are no buses or taxis to Mauna Kea, (3) there are slow or infrequent buses / trains available, (5) getting to the resort is easy with frequent bus / train connections.
(1) An ugly resort in a bland setting, (3) average mountain views and resort, (5) a spectacular setting and a beautiful / historic resort town.
(1) No places to stay in/near Mauna Kea, (3) a few places to stay in the resort, (5) a wide variety of accommodation suitable to suit all budgets.
Cheap Rooms: 4.3
(1) No budget accommodation available, (3) just one or two hostels so book ahead, (5) several cheap hostels and pensions available.
Luxury Hotels: 4.0
(1) No luxury accommodation available, (3) just one or two luxury hotels so book ahead, (5) several up-market hotels in Mauna Kea.
Ski in/Ski out: 3.5
(1) The ski area is located far from any accommodation, (3) a free ski bus takes you to the ski area in a short trip, (5) Ski-in ski-out accommodation is available.
(1) There are no child care facilities at Mauna Kea, (5) the resort has excellent child-care facilities including at least one reasonably priced creche.
(1) Occasionally gets enough snow for skiing, (2) is often closed due to a lack of snow, (3) occasionally suffers from a lack of snow, (4) rarely suffers from a lack of snow, (5) Mauna Kea is snowsure even in the poorest seasons.
(1) Mauna Kea relies entirely on natural snow, (3) there are just a few snow cannons, (5) there are snowmaking facilities on all pistes.
Snow Grooming: 3.0
(1) There are no snow groomers at Mauna Kea, (3) occasionally some pistes are left ungroomed and in a poor state, (5) all the runs at Mauna Kea are groomed daily.
(1) there is nowhere to ski when it is windy or visibility is bad and lifts often shut, (3) there are some trees for poor visibility but main lifts sometimes close, (5) Mauna Kea is mostly in forest where you can ski in flat-light and windy days, lifts rarely close.
Nearby options: 3.5
(1) If snow conditions are poor at Mauna Kea, it will be poor everywhere nearby, (3) there are good alternatives within an hours drive, (5) other locations on the same lift pass provide a rich variety of snowsure ski conditions.
Regional rating: 4.0
(1) Mauna Kea usually has poor snow conditions compared to other resorts in region, (3) has average conditions for the region, (5) usually has the best snow conditions in the region.
Lift Staff: 3.5
(1) The staff at Mauna Kea are rude or unhelpful, (5) lift staff at Mauna Kea are pleasant, cheerful and eager to help.
(1) the resort is always busy and there are usually long lift queues, (3) it is quiet apart from occasional weekends and school holidays, (5) it is uncrowded and lift queues are very rare.
Ski Schools: 3.5
(1) No ski schools available, (2) one or two ski schools but local language only, (3) a few ski schools but book early for multi-lingual instructors, (4) plenty of ski schools and multi-lingual instructors available, (5) excellent ski schools with friendly multi-lingual ski instructors.
Hire and Repairs: 3.5
(1) Nothing can be sourced, not even ski-wax or ptex. (3) there are some ski shops but rentals need to be booked in advance, (5) good quality ski equipment can be purchased or hired and overnight repairs are possible.
Variety of pistes: 4.0
(1) The ski runs are featureless and unvaried, (3) the ski runs are varied but not extensive enough for a week, (5) Mauna Kea has diverse and interesting pistes including forests and high alpine terrain.
(1) Beginners can only watch others ski and snowboard, (3) a few gentle slopes but beginners will get bored in less than a week, (3) Vast areas of gentle terrain.
(1) No intermediate terrain at Mauna Kea, (3) intermediate skiers will get bored after a few days, (5) vast areas of cruising runs.
(1) Nothing for advanced skiers and snowboarders, (3) enough steep terrain for a few days with some good offpiste, (5) Enough steep terrain and offpiste areas to entertain advanced skiers for at least a week.
Snow Park: 3.5
(1) Not even a kicker at Mauna Kea, (3) average sized park quite well looked after, (5) huge park area and expertly crafted pipes, jumps and boardercross trails.
(1) No off-piste worth mentioning, (2) off piste is out-of-bounds, (3) some varied offpiste that stays fresh for one or two days, (5) a vast array of off-piste routes that can stay untracked for several days.
(1) There is nowhere to go for cross-country skiing around Mauna Kea, (3) there are some cross country trails available, (5) the area features many spectacular and well maintained cross-country trails.
(1) No designated luge or toboggan runs, (3) there are toboggan runs that open quite often, (5) Mauna Kea has long and well maintained luge / toboggan facilities suitable for all ages.
Mountain Dining: 3.5
(1) Nowhere to buy food by the pistes, (3) some places to eat up on the mountain but they are often busy and expensive, (5) there is a variety of excellent mountain eateries right next to the slopes to suit all budgets.
(1) Bring your own food, there isn't even a shop. (5) A wide variety of places to eat and drink in the resort, from fast food to fancy restaurants.
(1) Nothing to do, not even a bar, (3) there are a few bars in the resort but nothing special, (5) clubs and bars stay open until very late and have a friendly atmosphere.
Other Sports: 4.0
(1) No sports facilities at all apart from ski lifts, (3) resort has just a small public swimming pool, (5) resort has all kinds of sports facilities, including a full-size swimming pool.
(1) Besides the snow and walking there is nothing to do here, (3) the non-skier will find things to do for few days but may become bored after a week, (5) the resort area is a fascinating place to visit, regardless of winter sports.
Winter Walks: 4.0
(1) Very limited walking and no snowshoe trails, (3) a couple of designated scenic walking/snowshoe trails, (5) extensive and diverse winter walking trails for all abilities.
Ski Pass Value: 4.0
(1) A 1 week ski pass is overpriced compared to the number of lifts available, (3) the ski pass is averagely priced and covers a reasonable number of lifts, (5) ski passes are excellent value for money and cover a lot of lifts spanning a big area.
Value (National): 4.0
(1) Overall, Mauna Kea is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the country and not worth the money, (3) overall represents average value for money, (5) overall offers the best value resort in the country.
Value (Global): 4.0
(1) Overall, Mauna Kea is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the world, (3) overall it offers pretty average value for money compared to resorts from other countries, (5) internationally the resort offers excellent value for money.
November 07, 2013
Joseph Beste from United States
Dear fellow skiers:
While Rick Tillison was a pioneer, The NSPS (National Ski Patrol..) officially recognized the Mauna Kea Ski Patrol in 1969-70. I joined the
the Patrol in 1969; Howard Shirmmer a Professional Engineer and Hawaii office Manager for Dames & Moore in Hawaii was the Founder of the Patrol and it's first leader. I met Howard through work and was an engineer for Chevron at their Barber's Point Refinery. Howard asked me to join the Ski Patrol in 1969 and I patrolled on Mauna Kea in the winter of 1969-70. I became the Patrol Leader in 1971-2. While Howard was still on the Patrol there were a number of other dedicated Patrol members including one woman patroller.
The skier's were generally shuttled to the summit in those days by Gordon (Flashgun) Morse through his business Holo Holo Campers from Hilo. Gordon was formerly a newspaper reporter in Honolulu, for the Honolulu Advertiser, and he supplied tourists with 4 wheel Jeeps to see the Big Island's more adventuresome area. The skiing was fabulous etc. There were many runs laid out by Dick Tillison and Howard in the late 60's. The University of Hawaii had a telescope near the very top; The University of Arizona had a smaller scope. The University of Hawaii through the graciousness of William Keck was building the largest scope on the very top. This scope opened in late 1969. I was already patrolling at that point. Tillison had spent the winter before at the University of Hawaii's Astronomy base camp at about the 8500-9,000 foot level. Not as pleasant as on the Kona coast. However, the location saved the time and aclimatization to altitude. It was near the old Humuhulu sheep station used by "Pig" (Wild Boar) hunters.
Another early patrol leader was a University of Hawaii PhD candidate in Astronomy named Peter Bostwick, Pete succeeded me as Patrol Leader, I continued as a member of the Patrol through about 1980. We also had two woman patrollers in the early days.
A rescued skier with a broken leg was Helen Masten(sp) in, I believe, 1971-2 Season. One of those early years, I believe it was 1970, the UH Astronomy department was snowed out in getting to the top. We (the Mauna Kea Patrollers) hiked up with snow shoes, skis and 5 gallon cans of diesel fuel to the Keck Observatory to supply the telescopes directional and heating generators. This was necessitated by the UH's half track being stuck in the snow (huge drifts) at about the 9-9500 elevation.
Lots of stories and memories..
February 20, 2011
Dean Reinking, LPN from United States
I've given you the history of Mauna Kea, now I'll submit a little about the terrain. When there's decent snowfall (has to get down to the 9,000 - 9'500 elevation), one can find a type of "hardpack" snow. It's not ice, but the winds make the moisture laden snow a style all its own. I've never experienced anything like it in the Rockies. One should have sharpened edges for turns are more tricky and need to be deliberate. As far as falling; mostly it will be a soft landing as the ground underneath is predominantly cinder. You'll generally notice any stray rocks jutting through the snow...BEWARE! ...landing on these (even small rocks) are very dangerous as they're jagged, not rounded and they'll tear right through your winter gear to you flesh. These rock upthrusts are rare, and as I mentioned, you'll be able to see them. The snow warms up once the tropical sun hits the surface making the snow into a spring "corn snow" type, but it's a lot more manageable...fun too! Temperatures can average in the mid-20's to mid-30's (when the sun hits you). Weather conditions can change quickly as small fronts can move in from out of nowhere....I've actually experienced a "white-out" which lasted for about 30 minutes. (The only thing I could do is attempt to point my ski tips downhill...wherever that was at times....you really couldn't see anything..barely even my skis. Yes, it can get dicey when something blows in...you don't know how long it will last. But back to this. In recent years the snowfall has been lacking and what we've been getting doesn't last long....so you have to hit the slopes of Mauna Kea ASAP. We hope this snowfall will improve...weather's a fickle thing in Hawaii...very unpredictable. I don't know of many people that have attempted the slopes of Mauna Loa (sister peak) @ about the same height elevation but more rounded. The few that have said it was really cold, windy, and the skiable snow coverage was lacking with plenty of rocks and debris...not even good for "rock skis." Access is clearly lacking on Mauna Loa and will entail plenty of high elevation hiking. The geography/geology might prove worth that.....bring plenty of water, food, protective clothing for that end....for skiing, I wouldn't recommend it. Dean Reinking, LPN
February 20, 2011
Dean Reinking from United States
Well, at one time there was a ski patrol on Mauna Kea..back about 1978. It originated from Dr. Pete Bostwick, myself (Dean Reinking, LPN) as the two members who lived in Hilo (on the Big Island). The other members came from Oahu: One was a female physician, a female RN, and a Lt. Commander (his wife) serving at Pearl Harbor. We took, on loan, The Hawaii Red Cross 4wd transport truck, Dr. Pete Bostwick's 4wd, and a rented 4wd along with an aluminum evac' sled and trained on the slopes nearest the UH Observatory. We spent a long weekend up there (a couple of times) staying in the old field stone scouting house (no longer there). It was very cozy as there were several bunkbeds, a picnic style table, a stove heater, and a kerosene cooking stove. The training with the evac' sled was tricky to say the least...lot's of snow-plowing, turns, etc., but we managed quite well. We took refresher first aid courses courtesy of the physician and RN. The unfortunate thing was our timing in getting this training event scheduled....one weekend prior to our session, a female had lost her life while "intertubing" down one of the steepest cones...she met her untimely demise after hitting a rock outcropping at the bottom of the "bowl" headfirst and actually bounced up further up the outcropping hitting a second time...that's how fast you can get moving...out of control.. The accident site was clearly evident and gave us a good reminder of what to expect. The Mauna Kea Ski Patrol last but two years as members departed on their professional paths. We had an enjoyable time while training. We were pretty exhausted at day's end. While on "unpaid duty," we treated several hypothermia cases (young kids with nothing but slippers on and light jackets...not wise); we dug out several snow-bound, stuck vehicles....try shoveling snow at 13,000+ elevation...I was lucky to be in good shape from running marathons, etc. I sure wish I could locate these former members...I believe I still may have a list of their names...I'll look. As far as I know (or anyone else for that matter), we were the first and only "official" Mauna Kea Ski Patrol...I still have our tag w/emblem. We weren't the first pioneers though. I believe the first individual to ski Mauna Kea was a man from Waimea named "Dick" Tilletson (sp.?) somewhere in and around 1953. "Dick" had to actually climb from down below up to the top as there were no real roads (so to speak) back then....he's the real pioneer....the members of the Mauna Kea Ski Patrol merely followed in his "ski" paths. Dick passed away some years back, but I had the pleasure of meeting this tall, thin, bearded gentleman. Aloha to all! That's the history I can present to you. Dean Reinking, LPN
January 03, 2005
Pat Wright from United States
I have a great deal 0of experience skiing Mauna Kea as I am a guide there. There are no lifts, skiing guide services or ski patrol. On the other hand there are no lift tickets. There is a good road to the top that is maintained by the observatories. Most folks just take up a 4x4 with a group of friends and take turns driving the shuttle vehicle. There is a great deal of backcountry terrain and some of it is steep up to 40 degrees. You can ski Mauna Kea with as little as 8 inches of snow because the cinder cone terrain is so smooth.