Tongariro National Park, Ruapehu
List Entry Information
List Entry Status
List Entry Type
Historic Place Category 1
Private/No Public Access
17th December 1993
Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region
The Ruapehu Ski Club was inaugurated in August 1914 at Waihohonu Hut on the eastern side of Tongariro National Park. Only the previous year and also based at Waihohonu Hut the founders of the club, William Mead and Bernard Drake, were the first to attempt recreational alpine skiing in New Zealand. Mead and Drake soon realised the suitability of the Whakapapa Valley slopes for skiing.
The popularity of skiing grew quickly but, despite the provision of several huts and an access road on the western side of the park, Waihohonu Hut remained the base for some years. Eventually, with the initiative of the Ruapehu Ski Club, the western side of the mountain was opened up for recreational use and major development of the ski field followed the erection of Glacier Hut.
The proposed hut was approved by the Tongariro National Park Board and work began in 1922. It was not until the following year that club finances, and the weather, allowed a group of volunteers led by William Salt to complete the hut. At the time the hut was built the Ruapehu Ski Club numbered some one hundred and ten members.
Glacier Hut was named after the Whakapapa Glacier which in the 1920s was a lot lower than it is now. The hut was the only structure in the vicinity for some years, and after heavy snow it sometimes disappeared altogether. Although rudimentary it served the club well until it was superseded by larger and better huts starting with a building known simply as 'Hut', a twelve, later twenty-four, bunk hut completed in 1936. Glacier Hut was used mainly as overflow accommodation from then on.
From 1944 to 1949 the Auckland University College Tramping Club leased and maintained Glacier Hut. It was also responsible for the small extension to the hut during this time.
Following the Auckland University College Tramping Club's lease the hut was used mainly for storage. The Tongariro National Park Board wanted the hut removed from the park but the Ruapehu Ski Club had long envisaged a role for the building as a relic from the early days of skiing. After some negotiation the Board agreed. The club cleaned and restored the hut and affixed a plaque to the front. It remained in this state until 1989 when the interior was adapted for use as a ski museum. Displays of skis, poles, bindings, clothed mannequins and interpretative panels were installed in the hut. In its role as a museum it is opened for visitors throughout the year.
Historical Significance or Value
Glacier Hut is of great significance in the history of New Zealand skiing as it is the earliest extant purpose-built ski hut in New Zealand. It was built by New Zealand's first ski club, the Ruapehu Ski Club, on New Zealand's first developed ski field, Whakapapa Ski field, and is an important relic from the formative years of alpine skiing in this country.
The Ruapehu Ski Club made a major contribution to the opening up of Tongariro National Park to visitors and Glacier Hut was built under the leadership of William Salt, the club's president who was particularly influential in improving access to Tongariro National Park.
Given the extreme alpine climate, Glacier Hut is a well preserved example of a typically rudimentary mountain hut. It is single-roomed, modest and utilitarian and the use of timber framing and corrugated iron sheathing reflects the difficulties imposed by the remote location. Erected primarily as a shelter, it is noticeably spartan.
Glacier Hut is overshadowed by the larger scale of the surrounding buildings at Iwikau Village yet its bright red colour has a bold impact on the landscape
The designer of Glacier Hut is not known but it was built by a Ruapehu Ski Club work party led by William Salt, the club's president. Salt was the driving force behind the improvement in access and accommodation in Tongariro National Park. He built roads and huts, often single-handedly. He died in a motor accident in 1930.
Glacier Hut is a simple rectangular hut measuring 3.5 x 5 metres with a gabled roof, two four-paned windows and an adjoining porch at the east end. The porch is less than half the width of the building and its sloping roof is pitched at the same angle as the gabled roof behind. At the rear end of the building is a circular cowl on a flue.
For viewing the interior, a glass booth has been installed just inside the porch. A glass door in the booth leads into the hut proper. Two triple bunks with a stove between occupy the far end of the hut and in the north-east (front right) is a cooking bench. Club memorabilia and relics from the early days of skiing on Mt Ruapehu, including clothed mannequins, fill the remainder of the interior.
Hut enlarged c1.5 metres out from the original door and porch added. Accommodation increased from four to six bunks.
Door, exterior door frame and windows replaced. Hut lined with building paper. Glass viewing booth installed.
Walls and roof are timber framed and have corrugated iron sheathing. Walls are lined with malthoid and flooring is of tongue and groove boards.
1st July 1993
J.C. Graham, Ruapehu: Tribute to a Mountain. Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1963.
N A Campbell, '1913 to 1940' in The History of the Ruapehu Ski Club, Ruapehu Ski Club, 1981
New Zealand Year Ski Book
New Zealand Year Ski Book
J C Graham, 'Historic Glacier Hut', 1961, (reprinted from New Zealand Herald), 1961)
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes text from the original Proposal for Registration considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.