Can I Ski or Snowboard in Hawaii?
Mauna Kea (Hawaiian for ‘white mountain’) is a 13,796′ (4205 meter) volcanic mountain whose summit sometimes gets a skiable/boardable mantle of snow. There are no lifts, no grooming, no resort, but a road goes to the summit to serve the dozen or so world class observatories located at the summit.
From its undersea base of -19,000 feet to the wind-swept peaks of 13,796 feet, Mauna Kea is the world’s highest mountain! It offers some of the world’s highest skiing. This massive extinct volcano is blessed with the finest snow in the world, opening almost 100 square miles of ski-able terrain.
At this latitude the conditions are spring like; the snow is sugar corn. We call it ‘Pineapple Powder’.
If you plan to ski or snowboard in Hawaii, there are no ski rentals here, so skiing in Hawaii will mean bringing your own snowboard or skis with you if you plan on taking this adventure seriously. However, it is best to leave your best skis at home, as snow in Hawaii can end in lava rock, and your equipment could get damaged easily.
Mauna Kea Skiing - What Conditions Should I Expect?
You must have a 4-wheel drive vehicle to drive to the summit, which serves as your “ski-lift.” Basically, skiers and snowboarders take turns being the driver, where one driver picks up the other riders at the bottom of the runs and ferries them up to the summit.
Conditions at the top are extremely variable. Winter temperatures range from 25 to 40 degrees F (-4 to 4 C), but wind chill and the high altitude can make it seem much colder. You must dress appropriately.
Between April and November the weather is milder, with daytime temperatures varying from 30 to 60 degrees F (0 to 15 C). It is best to check the forecast for Mauna Kea by the Hawaii Institute for Astronomy before you head to the summit.
January through March will be the best months to ski or snowboard in Hawaii, and on a clear day, you will be able to see Mauna Loa, and Haleakala Volcano on Maui.
I am a Beginner Skier/Snowboarder - Is Skiing in Hawaii for Me?
Skiing Hawaii is not for the timid or for those not in good physical condition. This is skiing in the wilderness, and there is no ski patrol looking out for you. Forget about skiing if the wind is blowing too hard or when the wind chill is significant, as it will be too cold and too dangerous. In most cases when the conditions are like this, the road will probably be closed.
The air pressure at the summit is less than at sea level by a significant amount, and this will make it more difficult to breathe if you are not in good physical condition or health. Altitude sickness is a common occurrence. Sunscreen is also necessary as the sun’s rays are very strong at this altitude, and a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes is also highly recommended.