Founded in 1930, the Aorangi ski club began as a group of people drawn together by a love of skiing. Each year the group made trips to the Hermitage and, one evening, in the Hermitage bar, decided to tackle skiing closer to home. It was decided to form a permanent club and thus Aorangi was born. In the early years the Aorangi members still made their annual pilgrimage to Mt Cook and the South to ski and find new fields. They kept active in the summer months with trips around the Wellington region.
By 1934 the membership was 86 and members were skiing at Mt Ruapehu, Mt Cook, Mt Taranaki and the Ruahines. The need for a club hut, possibly in the Tararuas, was discussed. The 1947 season saw a resurgence of skiing by club members, who now numbered over 300 and 1948 saw the beginnings of the first Aorangi lodge. Plans were drawn up and a site secured at what was fast becoming Iwikau village. Many other North Island based clubs were also beginning construction, as ski tows were soon to be installed at Whakapapa. Building began in 1949 and the lodge was fully functional in 1950 with the grand opening in June 1951.
Aorangi was expanding and queues had begun to form on the Whakapapa ski field so it was decided to build a second lodge, this time on the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu in the area now known as Tukino Ski field. This area is accessed from the Desert road and it was inhospitable territory.
The original Quonset hut at Tukino resembled a large tin can and filled with smoke from the coal range used to keep the cold at bay. Anything not anchored blew away, including the toilet. The foundations for the lodge in were laid in 1963 with keen Aorangi members braving the elements to build the lodge over the next four summers. In early 1966 the Aorangi Tukino lodge was opened and the first tow was installed. This required a team of 18 men and unfortunately the tow was buried under two meters of snow a month later. Tukino now has two tows, not often buried under two meters of snow, and is alive and well offering a unique taste of skiing ‘as it was’.
The development of Turoa ski field got under way in 1978 prompting the club to look at the possibilities of a third lodge. The Junction area of Ohakune had some sections zoned for ski clubs but these were expensive. After much research the club decided to purchase a one of these but fortunately a property came on the market at a bargain price. This (very) old house was situated on the hill overlooking the Junction and provided an ideal site for a third lodge. In the opening weeks of the club’s 50th year Aorangi acquired its third lodge.
A new lodge has since replaced the original house, and lodges at Tukino and Iwikau have had recent upgrades.