Finally, there's been some decent weather at the Mt Ruapehu skifields - but it's come too late for many schoolchildren whose holidays are winding down.

For Fiona Sykes and her kids this has been the worst ski season in a decade. They arrived at Ruapehu on Sunday but only today managed to get onto the slopes after staff spent the morning de-icing the chairlifts.

With rain due to set in across the country over the weekend they were likely to head home earlier than planned, Sykes said.

The family came to the North Island skifields in the second week of winter's school holidays almost every year, because the first week was typically awful weather, she said.

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Last year the school holidays started wet and windy, with snow not kicking in until mid-holiday at Whakapapa, Turoa, the Remarkables and Coronet Peak, and in 2016 Whakapapa and Turoa's openings were delayed for lack of snow.

However in 2017 the snow arrived right on time in the North Island, leading to a bumper ski season.

Fiona Sykes (right) and her kids finally got up to the Turoa skifields this afternoon after arriving at Ruapehu on Sunday. Photo / Supplied
Fiona Sykes (right) and her kids finally got up to the Turoa skifields this afternoon after arriving at Ruapehu on Sunday. Photo / Supplied

MetService meteorologist Melissa Oosterwijk said today's good skiing weather could be short-lived - rain and potential gales are expected on Friday afternoon across the Central Plateau.

Freezing level was expected to be above 1700m, a little higher than Whakapapa and Turoa skifields.

A few snow showers were expected on Saturday about the higher fields but lower down there was likely to be melt, Oosterwijk said. Showers would clear and become fine on Sunday.

A chairlift operator clears away snow and ice from the chairlift operations at Turoa Ski Area on Mt Ruapehu. Photo / Alan Gibson
A chairlift operator clears away snow and ice from the chairlift operations at Turoa Ski Area on Mt Ruapehu. Photo / Alan Gibson

Most of New Zealand is set to get some rain over the next three days. While for schoolkids it's a grim way to end the holidays, a bout of prolonged rain will be welcome in the southwest South Island.

That region has had just 20 per cent of its average rainfall for July, MetService meteorologist April Clark said.

A broad band of rain and strong northerlies spreads over Westland this evening and continues over the North Island on Saturday, according to MetService.

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Weatherwatch.co.nz said rain would be heavy for some western North Island areas and the top of the South island, with possible thunderstorms in Northland on Friday afternoon.

The eastern North Island would have a dry morning, then some rain spreading from the west mid to late afternoon, clearing later in the evening.

Elsewhere across the rest of the country the weekend weather is looking messy, MetService said. Sunny breaks and showers were expected to affect much of the west of the South and North Island, but the eastern regions from Wairarapa up to Bay of Plenty were looking a lot finer.

Skiers tried to make the most of the awful conditions at Turoa Ski Area on Mt Ruapehu on Wednesday. Constant rain has been causing problems for the skifields over the holidays. Photo / Alan Gibson
Skiers tried to make the most of the awful conditions at Turoa Ski Area on Mt Ruapehu on Wednesday. Constant rain has been causing problems for the skifields over the holidays. Photo / Alan Gibson

Friday's weather outlook

Whangarei:

Morning rain with strengthening northerlies, then one or two showers with westerlies. Chance heavy and thundery falls. High 16C, Low 9C

Auckland: Morning rain with strengthening northeasterlies, then occasional showers from afternoon with westerlies. Chance heavy and thundery falls. High 15C, Low 10C

Hamilton: Morning rain with strengthening northerlies, then occasional showers from afternoon with northwesterlies. High 14C, Low 7C

Tauranga: Showers turning to rain afternoon as northerlies strengthen. Chance heavy and thundery falls. Isolated showers by evening with northwesterlies. High 15C, Low 8C

Napier: Cloud increasing, then late afternoon or evening rain with strengthening northeasterlies. Clearing later with northwesterlies. High 16C, Low 6C

New Plymouth: Morning rain, then occasional showers from afternoon as strong northerlies turn northwest. Chance heavy and thundery falls. High 14C, Low 8C

Wellington: Cloudy with isolated showers, and a period of rain through the afternoon. Northerlies strengthening for a time. High 13C, Low 9C

Nelson: Rain, clearing in the evening. Northerlies, easing evening. High 13C, Low 5C

Christchurch: Mostly cloudy, with occasional rain developing morning. Southwest breezes. High 11C, Low 6C

Queenstown: Mostly cloudy, a few spots evening rain. Light winds. High 9C, Low 2C

Dunedin: Cloud increasing, then rain from afternoon. Southwest breezes. High 11C, Low 8C

Invercargill: Mostly cloudy with light winds. Occasional rain and southerlies from afternoon. High 10C, Low 5C