Mt Ruapehu's dry brown mountain has transformed to a white winter wonderland in the past few days and not a minute too soon as the first of its skifields gets ready to open its doors tomorrow.

The snow machines have been working around the clock at Whakapapa trying to produce enough snow to open Happy Valley just before the July school holidays, but in the last few days mother nature has given it a helping hand.

In the past 48 hours, 25cm of snow has fallen on Whakapapa's upper mountain and 10cm on the lower.

The forecast is for light snow tomorrow followed by very cool temperatures that are prefect for snowmaking conditions for the rest of the week.


Whakapapa's beginner ski area Happy Valley is still on track to open tomorrow. The Sky Waka gondola which launched last year was also due to open for sightseeing but may be on hold due to the weather conditions.

If snowfall prevails, the tobogganing slope up will also be up and running for the school holidays.

Tūroa's opening has also delayed due to the absence of the white stuff and an opening date is still to be confirmed.

The snow started falling at Tūroa over the weekend and is forecast to continue for the rest of the week as the temperatures also continue to fall.

However, despite snow making the season look more positive, the Covid-19 pandemic has proved challenging for the operator which is operating both skifields but at a reduced capacity.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts has been reviewing its offerings since first announcing both ski areas would open at a limited capacity.

It has also changed its processes around parking swapping the first in first served system for an online booking system where users can book up to a week in advance for a car park.

In a statement, RAL chief executive Jono Deans said the new system would help ease traffic congestion at the mountain during peak times and ensure a sustainable level of visitation can be managed.

Visitors are being encouraged to visitors to plan their trip in advance and avoid busy times, like weekends.

"While weekends will always be busy, skiers need to consider going up the mountain mid-week to avoid crowds and queues. The new booking system will show live availability so people can easily see when is the best time to visit."


If the parking was booked then people could make the decision to try for another weekend. If visitors were more than 30 minutes late for their booking then RAL could release the park to someone else, the statement said.

Whakapapa has 1600 car parks and a capacity of 4500 visitors this year, while Tūroa has 1700 parks and a capacity for up to 3700 visitors.

The booking system goes live on July 8 with the first bookings being taking for July 11. Parking is free this year, but this will be reviewed for future years.

People have had a mixed reaction to the announcement on social media with some pleased they won't have to get up early to queue for a park, while others are critical they won't have access to the mountain when they want it.

"Will be heartbreaking to wake up on a bluebird day and then not allowed to get a carpark. It feels wrong that we may not be able to even access the maunga!," one person said.

Another worried the physical queue will instead be redirected to a virtual queue. A number of social media users also worried people would book in advance and then not turn up.


RAL has said it will not give season pass holders - which represent a significant number of its customers - a refund despite this year's limited operations.