The first days of Mount Ruapehu's 2018 ski season have been earlier and busier than ever, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts CEO Ross Copland says.

By 4pm on June 3 more than 3400 people had taken to the lower slopes of the Whakapapa ski area in beautiful weather, beating previous records.

More than 2000 were at Happy Valley on June 1, when the company offered free lift passes, skiing and snowboarding.

The Chateau Tongariro and Skotel have been sold out for the last few nights and Whakapapa ski area has 200 staff, with that number set to rise to 400 by the July school holidays.


The Rock Garden ski trail was opened at a record early date, and Copland said people were congratulating him.

"It wasn't me, it was the snow guns," he told them.

The lower mountain has about 50cm of snow across it, packing down to 40cm after grooming. Copland said half of this was natural snow, from two weeks with plenty of snowfall, and half was from the $25 million "Snow Factory" installed last year.

Snowmaking enabled a much larger area to be opened early.

MetService is predicting a colder winter this year, and another 50cm of snow is expected to fall in the coming week.

Skiing on the upper mountain at Whakapapa and at Turoa ski area may start early, and the season could extend until Labour Weekend.