Skiers heading to New Zealand's snowfields have been left out in the cold after level 2 measures saw hundreds turned away from mountains.
By 9am this morning visitors to Mt Hutt snowfield reported bumper-to-bumper queues stretching 5km down the mountain and - in the North Island - visitors to Ruapehu have experienced similar chaos with bus-loads of skiers being turned away over the weekend.
Skiers across the South Island reported a rush to the mountains following snow dumps of around half a metre at Mt Hutt, Coronet Peak and Craigieburn yesterday. The rush on the mountain and level 2 restrictions led to a pile-up of would-be skiers heading to the slopes.
Operating in level 2 ski fields have been forced to cap visitors. Coronet Peak has restricted skiers on the mountain to 2000 visitors, or around half the normal daily numbers. Likewise Mt Hutt has a similar cap of 2000.
However it is Whakapapa, which has seen the most precipitous cap on visitors - from 5500 people to 1800 due to level 2 restrictions.
Problems with allocation of shuttle passengers saw hundreds of visitors turned away from the mountain on Sunday.
Even before Auckland joined the rest of the country in level 2, there were reports of Whakapapa and Turoa filling up quickly.
"Had the bus booked heading up to Whakapapa only to be stopped and sent back. It was the 8.15 bus," said skier Katherine Irwin who was left feeling "gutted" by the experience.
Irwin said she got a refund for the trip, but lost a morning's skiing.
Other frustrated skiers described the situation as "madness", saying they could not understand why 500 people were allowed on buses on Sunday then 300 the next.
Scenic Ruapehu Shuttles said they hit capacity just after 8am on Sunday, writing on Facebook "until we drop out of level 2 - buy a lottery ticket - shuttles are now a gamble".
Damian Coutts, Department of Conservation operations director for Central North Island, said they "understand people's frustration, but the issue is driven by demand exceeding capacity on the ski fields".
"DoC and RAL have agreed to a maximum at alert level 2 of 300 passengers who can be delivered to the ski field by shuttle daily," said Coutts, but it was up to individual shuttle operators to work out how to share this passenger quota.
This capacity had been increased on Saturday to avoid buses being turned away - after shuttle operators had oversold seats - but on Sunday the 300 cap was enforced, leading to visitors being sent back down the hill.
Coutts said he was "keen to see a better distribution of passengers among companies and to see people are able to access and enjoy their day on the mountain".
Coutts admitted the "pressure points" were likely to be with ski operators and visitors trying to access the mountain until the country moved out of level 2.
A spokesperson for Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, which runs the Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields, said the shuttle chaos "was not a RAL issue".
"RAL is managing the level 2 visitor numbers restriction with its bookable car parking which is available on its website mtruapehu.com," they said, adding that the decision was made not to operate a RAL shuttle service this year.
In Canterbury today, skiers eventually made it to the slopes.
A representative of Mount Hutt said that while it has "been a busy day" they were able to fit all skiers on the mountain who persevered.
"We didn't turn anyone away today."
The fresh snowfall and rush of visitors to the mountain led to queues as motorists were told to put on snow chains.
"This meant it did take a little longer to get everyone up and caused a bit of a backup of vehicles."
Mt Hutt is running at reduced parking under level 2, with spaces capped at just under 600 cars.