New Zealand's ski fields welcome Aucklanders at level 2

Aucklanders have been able to join the rest of the country and get out and about at level 2 - with many enjoying their first weekend out of level 3 by hitting Mt Ruapehu's ski slopes.

But some have been left frustrated by COVID-19 enforced visitor limits, which have seen visitors scrambling for a booking, or risk being turned away at the gate.

Conditions on Saturday at Whakapapa were perfect, with visitors from all over New Zealand desperate to get their adrenaline fix. Especially Aucklanders cooped up after another lockdown.

"Oh to be honest mate it feels pretty good to leave Auckland," snowboarder Dane Norton told Newshub.

"It's pretty good being allowed out past the border and all that," said Jeremy Smith.

"Maybe just don't say too loudly that we are from Auckland, maybe!" said one person, in reference to Aucklanders finally being able to visit other parts of the country.

The rest of the country has been in level 2 all along. Whakapapa area manager Steve Manunui says visitors shouldn't be afraid of the Auckland influx.

"I guess around our protocols we are really asking and relying on our guests to manage themselves," he says.

In the denser areas, safety is being controlled. Visitors can't get on a gondola without a face covering, but most already have one anyway.

And skiing and snowboarding are naturally socially distanced sports.

"If there's a sport that has its own natural kind of PPE built in this is it!" says Manunui.

The challenge for many has been getting up there in the first place. Usually 5500 people are allowed on Whakapapa on a day with conditions like today's. But COVID restrictions mean they've had to cut that to just 2500 this weekend.

So spots in the carpark are at a premium, with visitors having to race against each other to book a spot online.

"I was on the website at 6pm sharp on Wednesday, when they released 50 percent of the spots, and I didn't stand a chance," said Simon Maude at the early morning queue to get in.

"Someone must have cancelled or I don't know, but we managed to get a car park. So we're feeling pretty lucky to be here!" said Frances McKenzie.

And just 300 people are allowed up on shuttles - many turned away when that limit was reached by just 7:30am this morning.

"I've argued that we should have an allocation per transport operator," says Colin Baker of Ruapehu Scenic Shuttles.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts licenses the mountain off the Department of Conservation (DoC).

DoC says demand is exceeding capacity, and it's up to the shuttle operators to work amongst themselves to divide the 300 up.

Manunui says it's all because of COVID.

"The positive here is everyone at least has a forward view whether you can get through the gate or not. Because the only other way to do it would literally be to stand there and count every single person coming in," he tells Newshub.

"The number is the issue, not the system. It's capacity."

Like the rest of the country, Manunui's praying for a drop down in levels on September 16, so more Kiwis can slide down the slopes.