Free skiing and snowboarding at Mt Ruapehu on Friday

Whakapapa Ski Area has been blanketed with snow.
Whakapapa Ski Area has been blanketed with snow. Photo credit: Supplied

Skiing and snowboarding will be free at Mt Ruapehu on Friday, as it opens a day ahead of schedule on the first day of winter.

"After the recent massive May snow dumps there's been lots of requests from the public around opening earlier than Saturday," Ruapehu Alpine Lifts chief executive Ross Copland said.

"We've listened and will be offering a free taster in Happy Valley on Friday, so there will be no charges for lift passes to ski from 11am to 2pm."

The Whakapapa Customer Relations office will be taking optional donations to the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter fund.

Lessons, rentals, food and beverages will all be priced as usual.

On Saturday, the ski season will officially kick off - with Mt Ruapehu being the first commercial ski area to open.

"With our snow-making technology and a big boost from Mother Nature, which has blanketed Whakapapa Ski Area with snow over the last week or so, it should make for fantastic early season skiing," Mr Copland said.

"We're not ruling out an early opening of Turoa as well if this weather keeps delivering snow and cold temperatures."

Whakapapa may also open its Rangatira Express this weekend, offering skiing and snowboarding on the lower mountain depending on the weather and snow.

Turoa Ski Area is scheduled to open on June 29, and Whakapapa Upper mountain on June 30.

"We're hoping to break last year's opening weekend record - especially with all the hype around the recent snowfall, and the latest reports from Metservice that it's going to be a cold winter season," Mr Copland said.

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