Ski and snowboard season is upon us in the northern hemisphere. From Colorado to Vermont, season passes are for sale at dozens of mountains. On Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s most popular ski destination, there are no season passes, ski lifts, or lodges, but there is powder.
There are thirteen telescopes in observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea, a volcano and the highest point on the big island of Hawaii. The Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, which manages the research on the summit, warns potential visitors of extreme weather, dangerous roads, limited access to telephones and gas, and hazards to health due to the oxygen levels and altitude.
The Institute advises visitors not to underestimate the potential health effects of high altitude–the peak tops out at 13,796 feet– so their website links to a fact sheet on the safest ways to see Mauna Kea. They advise visitors not to smoke within 48 hours or scuba dive within 24 hours of ascent, and ask visitors with heart conditions to consider skipping the trip entirely. The guidelines say nothing about skiing.
If you are planning a trip to the Big Island, and don’t have room for skis and a surfboard, make a reservation for a rental from Mauna Kea Ski Corporation. They charge $50 per day for ski or snowboard rental, but recommend reserving in advance.
Since there is only one unpaved access road, you will need to secure a vehicle with four-wheel drive to ferry your party up and down the run. Mauna Kea Ski Corporation also reminds customers on its site that the slopes are not maintained or groomed, and are peppered with unexposed rocks and other hazards. All runs are open weather permitting.
Looking for another unorthodox way to have fun on a volcano? Check out our article on volcano boarding.