Southern chill a relief for holidaymakers
The frozen heavens have opened just in time for Azaria McMillan to pelt her siblings with snowballs this weekend.
Azaria, 11, and her Nawton family are breathing big sighs of relief following the week's dump of snow on Mt Ruapehu - which turned up a snow base more than 80cm deep on Turoa and Whakapapa skifields.
The McMillan's had booked accommodation for nine family members in National Park village, but until Wednesday feared they would be forced to change their holiday plans from tobogganing to mountain trekking.
"We booked it about three months ago but it didn't even occur to me there could be no snow," said mum Donna McMillan.
Kym and Dean Stringer have been skiing together since they were in their 20s. Now in their 40s, the Stringers take daughter Paige to the snow each holidays - this year marks the 5-year-old's first school holiday trip.
"To be honest, we thought we would just be taking bikes down there up until [Wednesday]."
Paige strapped on her first skis at age 2 in Happy Valley.
This year, mum hoped the family would make the most of their season passes, with several day trips planned plus a big holiday in August.
Ian Heappey, managing director of Ski Shed said yesterday was the first day customers had showed up in any decent numbers.
"We had roughly 2cm of snow in town [Wednesday] night - it was enough to turn the town white."
Scott Graham, owner of Alpine Motel and Backpackers Lodge in Ohakune said snow fell as far north as Taihape overnight on Wednesday. Enquiries at the lodge had "certainly picked up" thanks to Wednesday's snow dump, he said.
Over the weekend the cold southwesterly flow is expected to loosen its grip as a narrow ridge of high pressure moves across New Zealand bringing settled weather to most places, MetService reported.
Ohakune Mountain Rd is best accessed by four-wheel drive or chains on tyres. SH1 at the Desert Rd and SH47 at National Park were both closed yesterday morning but reopened later in the day.
Season passes, various half-day, full-day, two-, three-, and four-day passes are available at youth and adult rates at mtruapehu.com. Children under five can access the mountain and lift for free.