A group of hikers heading towards the summit of Mt Ruapehu were sent safely back down the mountain, after it was hit by three avalanches today.

The avalanches began about 3pm, and came down the south-western slope.

One encroached onto the Turoa skifield, forcing the closure of the upper field. About 2500 people had been skiing in the wider Turoa ski area today.

Search and rescue patrollers set out after the 35 hikers who were in a "very risky area'', said Mt Ruapehu's Turoa ski area manager Chris Thrupp.


The group had since all be accounted for, Radio New Zealand reported.

It is believed everyone on the mountain today was accounted for, and there were no injuries as a result of the avalanches.

Mr Thrupp said ski patrollers and a specialised squad were called in to help with the search, and a helicopter flew over the site.

The hazard was significant enough to raise concerns of an avalanche reaching the upper slopes of the skifield, which were quickly closed.

The slip resulted from a quantity of dense, new snow sliding down the mountain amid warmer temperatures, said Mr Thrupp.