Snowboarding in Hawaii
If you were to ask someone to list the top 20 destinations for a snowboarding holiday then it is unlikely that they would mention Hawaii. The islands are synonymous with holidays in the sun, but many people do not realise that they can take part in winter sports here too. This means that you can spend some time on the slopes and then be sunbathing just minutes later if you want.
The tallest mountain on Hawaii is Mauna Kea and it has a reasonable amount of snow on it each year. The winter months see many people heading up there to try the skiing and snowboarding facilities. The name of the mountain should give it away – it translates as ‘white mountain’ and at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level there are plenty of slopes to try. There is an access road which must be negotiated but this is fairly easy with a 4×4 vehicle.
One of the attractions of snowboarding here is that it is not a resort. In ski resorts around the world you would be expected to pay for ski passes, to use the lifts and to hire equipment. Here you simply provide your own equipment and get on with it. It is the perfect choice for those who want a little freedom and those who do not want to use set runs or snow parks. Be prepared for damage to equipment from the lava rocks which litter the slopes.
The altitude means that you may notice a reduction in oxygen levels as you reach the top but it does not take very long to reach the bottom. With a lack of crowds it is a very different experience, but those who want to give this a try need to be aware that it is not without its dangers. It is not for beginners and should only be considered by those who have extensive snowboarding experience.
In order to maximise your safety you should be prepared for the bitterly cold temperatures at the top of the mountain. There are always windy conditions there which can make it seem even colder. If the winds are very strong then it is better not to try it. In extreme weather conditions the access road will be closed off for safety reasons. The latest information can be obtained from the Hawaii Institute for Astronomy. However, the views from the top are not to be missed as from here you get a clear view of Mauna Loa and another volcano located on the island of Maui, so before you set off down the mountain, make sure you take the time to enjoy the view.
It is important to not tackle the slopes at top speeds as there are plenty of dangers on the mountain, not least the rocks which can seem to appear from nowhere. There may be areas of the mountain where the snow suddenly comes to an end and there is no vegetation under the snow, it is simply rock. This can cause damage not only to your snowboard but also to you if you are taken unawares. It is important that you only attempt snowboarding or skiing on the mountain if you are in good physical condition. The air is so thin at the top that anyone with health issues may struggle a great deal. Do not forget to pack sun goggles and an SPF – even if it is cold you can still suffer from the sun as it is very strong here.
While February and March are considered to be the best months to give this a go, you may find that the snow is fine for snowboarding right up until July, although conditions vary and you should not be banking on it. However, if the conditions are not right and you have made the trip to the top it is worth calling in to one of the observatories there. You can find out more about the work that they do and there are tours available. Those who travel part way up the mountain can also call in to the Visitor Information Station at just over 9000 feet above sea level.
One of the advantages of Hawaii is that it is easy to reach and visitors have many travel options open to them. However, it is not the cheapest of places to visit. Hotels and other daily essentials may cost more than in some European resorts but there are no additional extras for skiing or snowboarding unless you hire a guide.