The country's skifields have had an early taste of snow, with 10-15cm falling yesterday on the upper slopes of Mt Ruapehu's Whakapapa field.

MetService spokesman Andy Downs said temperatures had fallen across New Zealand over the past few days as cold air from the south west moved up the country.

"It will stay fairly cold through the next few days. We expect it to continue on through until Friday, when things steady down and start to recover.

"And by the weekend it looks like we're back into a ridge of high pressure, with temperatures starting to recover again."


Early next week temperatures will be in the low 20C range, but will gradually drop in late April and early May.

Mike Smith of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts said snow started to fall on Mt Ruapehu around 11pm on Monday night, and had become fairly heavy by yesterday afternoon. Turoa Rd was closed because of snow.

The mountain's Turoa skifield was not due to open until June 25, but Mr Smith said he hoped the snowfall was a sign of good things to come.

"We're pretty heartened - the Niwa climate outlook for autumn and winter was released late last week.

"They're saying the closest climate outlook approximation to recent years was 2008. And that was the best season we'd ever had in terms of snowfall."

Last season was a difficult one because of light snowfall and poor weekend weather.

"But it feels like we had a really nice, very long, warm, dry summer. And it kind of feels like the seasons have normalised a bit."

The weather took another turn when a mini tornado tore the roof off a building in Papatoetoe, trapping a man inside. The tornado struck at Safe Store on Puhinui Rd just after 2.30pm. Fire Service shift manager Jaron Phillips said it was "pretty crazy" and isolated.

He said the person was freed and did not need to be hospitalised.