Under blue skies and crisp winter conditions Mt Ruapehu's ski season officially opened today with hundreds of skiers and snowboarders taking to the slopes.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts chief executive Ross Copland said it was great to see so many people enjoying the early season snow.
"Sightseers, skiers and snowboarders are all enjoying a great day on the mountain and I'm sure they will be back for more."
Happy Valley ski area is fully operational with lift-accessed sledding, the chairlift and carpet lifts open.
The Rangatira Express is also open for the weekend offering skiing and snowboarding on Whakapapa's lower mountain - the earliest the express lift has opened to the public for a winter season.
"Thanks to our snowmaking technology and a helping hand from Mother Nature we opened Happy Valley yesterday for free skiing to kick off the season," Copland said.
"The early start means skiers and snowboarders can polish their skills on the gentle slopes of Happy Valley and then move on to other parts of the mountain as the season progresses."
New Zealand's highest café, the Knoll Ridge, is open for sightseeing with spectacular views across the North Island.
Whakapapa's new mascot "Skiwi" is on the slopes and live music is playing in the Base Area, all adding to today's opening day fun on the mountain.
"First Chair Winners" – Jonny and Guy - took away some Dragon goggles and official "First Chair" tees for being first on the Double Happy Chairlift this morning.
The next Mt Ruapehu ski area scheduled to open is Turoa on June 29, then Whakapapa upper mountain on June 30.
More than 2700 people headed up the mountain on opening weekend last year setting a 10-year record high and the Mt Ruapehu team is hoping to break that record this year.
More than 1200 visitors had scanned through lift gates before noon and numbers were steadily increasing into the early afternoon.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts installed the Snow Factory at the start of the 2017 ski season and it's New Zealand's first all-weather snow making machine, capable of making snow in temperatures of up to 25C.