The ski seasons opens on June 28 and soon thousands of Aucklanders will be gassing up for the four-hour-drive to Ruapehu.
Serious skiers and snowboarders will be headed south, and so will a myriad of social groups, friends, workmates, families and church and youth groups, all just out for some weekend fun.
But the snow-loving set could spare a thought for workers putting final touches to Whakapapa and Turoa Skifields.
Despite excellent facilities and an enviable safety record, our winter playgrounds on Ruapehu are among the most challenging skifields in the world to operate. Ruapehu is an unruly mountain, producing more ice, more rapidly, than most other skifields.
The weather changes faster and the rocky volcanic base of Ruapehu's ski fields require more snow - both real and artificial. And being on a volcano there's even remote possibility of an eruption. Ski staff are trained to help skiers in the event of a lahar from Ruapehu, or ash clouds from neighbouring Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.
Unlike grass-based ski fields around the world, rocky old Ruapehu demands clever snow making and full cooperation from Mother Nature to put down an ideal skiing base.
European and North American ski resorts enjoy drier and colder climates, but the North Island's highest mountain is renowned for hoovering-up moisture-laden sea air from nearby coastlines.
This creates ice, a lot of it. Some winter mornings the icing turns entire lift towers, snow makers and other pieces of machinery into giant iceblocks, which must be attacked by staff wielding with so-called "Yeti sticks" before skifields can open. Such icing impresses even technicians visiting Ruapehu from Austrian ski lift company Doppelmayr, biggest ski lift company in the world.
Storms can blow in fast on Ruapehu and, as with any alpine environment, the challenges of rapid weather changes puts pressure on the most experienced staff and customers.
In 2003, about 350 skiers and 70 skifield staff were trapped on the mountain overnight at Top o'the Bruce when a snow storm blew up, making the access road too dangerous to descend.
Staff worked hard to ensure that visitors to the mountain spent the night in relative comfort and all descended safely the next morning.
In July 2008 skiers and staff were stuck on the mountain overnight when a fast approaching storm caused the skifield to be closed at 10.30am and made the road too dangerous for cars without chains or 4WD to leave the area. By 3pm there were still over 100 cars in the Whakapapa car park and those who had not been able to leave by that point were told to settle in for the night. All cars were able to leave safely the next morning.
But dealing with such events doesn't seem to dent the confidence of the people who run these remarkable ski areas. Staff I spoke with talked pride of times they've risen to such challenges, working late to bed down customers down in shops and cafes at the Top'o'the Bruce, then putting in more hours to clear the road in order to get them down safely the next day.
They're a positive bunch, the core management team having worked on Ruapehu, in some cases, for decades.
For example, the Operations Manager for Whakapapa Ski Area, Steve Manunui, a 25-year-veteran on the mountain.
Manunui met us fresh from interviewing seasonal staff required during the three-to-four-month ski season.
He and colleagues had whittled 3000 applicants applicants down to 500 or so extra staff, filling a long the list of roles required to operate the two ski fields.
Most picture ski instructors or ski patrollers, says Manunui, but many roles are required: parking attendants, ticket sellers, food, beverage and retail staff, lift operators, engineers and maintenance people, snow groomer operators, snow makers and many more.
"Everyone has their part to play, not only in providing a day of fun but also in keeping visitors safe.
"This place suits active types who take advantage of the fun they can have on their days off. About 30-40 per cent have worked for us previously and the rest new to it. Being part of the team will demand all the commitment, enthusiasm and energy you can bring. But riding is free, most employees enjoy one another's company and days off can be a real blast."
Fun for everyone
Seasonal staff need a customer-centric focus, best exemplified in the way staff look after the less fit and active customers.
"Lift operators are trained to assist the elderly, mothers with young children and the disabled. We'll slow or even stop the lift if we have to. We all aim to provide opportunity for as many as possible, regardless of their mobility, to enjoy our mountain."
Not all staff can ski when they first arrive, but he notes that most can by the end of season. In general Mt Ruapehu has the longest ski season in New Zealand - generally from June to the end of October, sometimes longer. And most working as seasonal staff leave with happy memories, says Manunui.
Yet with many hazards to manage, the work is also serious and systematic.
During summer, when the lifts serve hikers and sightseers, maintenance crews take advantage of quieter demand to ensure everything is running smoothly ahead of the hectic winter seasons.
It's exacting work, which includes stripping and testing all machinery to a strict schedule. A crew of five-to-six engineers carefully maintain the lifts, including at times dangling in high baskets to inspect ski lift wheels. They even X-ray lift cables.
There's huge demand and hence pressure to perform on a busy Saturday, when those riding the lifts at Whakapapa and Turoa combined can total 5,500 at Whakapapa and a similar number at Turoa.
Such high usage requires vast and complex infrastructure. Not only lifts but services including water, power and sewerage infrastructure must run in the hostile alpine environment.
For example, pumps and pipes work hard to carrying vast quantities of water to snow making machines (50 at Whakapapa and 53 on Turoa).
At Whakapapa, a reservoir cunningly designed to resemble a natural lake, contains 25 million litres.
During peak demand, powerful pumps carry water from here halfway up the mountain to the snow makers, pumping water at the mind-numbing peak velocity of 10,000 litres-a-minute.
"Snow making requires a huge amount of water, but we're working in a dual world heritage national park, which brings special challenges. All infrastructure is kept out of view and, if possible, removed during the summer months."
There's feverish behind-the-scenes work enabling thousands of visitors to visit the mountain each day, during the season. But there are also some careful calculations, for Manunui's job carries much responsibility. He sometimes plays "The Grinch", closing lifts, or the entire mountain, if he deems conditions to be unsafe, always holding safety of the customer as paramount.
The industry has opened up opportunities for him to live and work overseas.
But as a young man he drifted, almost by chance, into his fascinating career.
Raised in Taumarunui, Manunui had little to do with the mountain, until paying a visit to Whakapapa during some days off from a job working in the bush.
"Some friends and I noticed an advertisement for lift attendants, decided we'd try it out for a season and found it great fun. After trying my hand at skiing I was hooked."
Next season Manunui signed on again and after riding on a snowcat (machines which groom snow) decided he just had to drive one.
"I learned all I could and sure enough got a job with the groomers the following season. It led to summer time maintenance work and roles in project management and engineering."
Soon after learning to drive snow groomers, Manunui was also grooming at American ski resorts.
"Imagine a Maori boy from Taumarunui, who'd previously regarded Auckland holidays as a big deal, getting those opportunities.
My career has been wonderful on so many levels. I met my wife through the ski industry and our children love skiing, and just can't wait to visit dad at work."