Learn what kind of snow conditions to expect in New Zealand and in particular on the South Island of New Zealand during late autumn and winter.
As an extension to my best time to visit New Zealand article, I'd like to expand on the winter season in New Zealand and share with you what the snow conditions in New Zealand are like during winter.
Snow in New Zealand can start falling as early as late April. A dusting of snow on mountain tops is not an uncommon scene in April.
For example, I took this picture of Hawkdun Range with snow in April. The snow was gone the following day, though, because the temperatures were too high to maintain snow on the mountains.
Late May you can expect to get the odd day on which truck loads of snow can fall within a short period of time.
Such events usually do not last for days and days at a time. And again, soon afterwards, the snow melts away and disappears. You can expect such events to take place the closer you get to June.
Starting from June you can expect to start seeing more snow on the mountains. Temperatures and precipitation play a major role in whether there is a lot of snow that falls and how far down the mountains it goes.
The freezing level rises and falls, so the amount of snow on mountains also varies as the freezing level varies. In general, though, the snow does not usually reach the ground and if it does, it does not stay there for long.
You can find out how low the snow is falling on the mountains by going to the Mountains & Parks section of the MetService website.
July weather in New Zealand can be unstable at times bringing periods of rain instead of snow. Or the snow might fall, the temperatures rise, and the melting snow will cause lake and river levels to rise. You can also get high winds and polar blasts.
The Mackenzie Country where places like Tekapo and Twizel lie, are located at a higher elevation, and the weather seems a bit more stable there, although you don't always get blue skies. The photo of Lake Pukaki shown above was shot in July. As you can see, the mountains of the Ben Ohau Range were partly covered with snow.
Snow occasionally falls to the ground in this region, and if snow falls days on end, roads may get closed for a period of time, preventing traffic in and out of the region. In general, though, roads are clear of snow, and if they are not, snow plows tend to clear the roads early in the morning.
The weather in Queenstown in July is pretty unsettled. While not much rain falls, it is often cloudy and gloomy. The mountain tops tend to have snow on them and the snow pretty much stays there, because the temperatures are low enough.
And while roads may be icy and slippery early in the morning, they tend to be clear of snow most of the time, since the snow generally falls at higher elevations and only occasionally reaches the ground in Queenstown.
Because August is at the tail end of winter, you can expect snow to have already fallen in the months leading up to August.
In addition, snow storms and cold snaps tend to hit New Zealand during the first and second weeks of August, thereby bringing large amounts of fresh snow to both islands.
While snow storms tend to hit the South Island (especially the lower half of the South Island) more than they do the North Island, you can expect ski fields in Central North Island to also get snow when a snow storm hits New Zealand.
All in all, August may just be one of the best times if not the best time for snow in New Zealand.
However, the periods of snowfall in spring are far in between, and when the snow does fall, it comes down in large amounts. You can see these as the last days to enjoy skiing in New Zealand if you still want to and if the temperatures remain low enough to keep the snow on the mountains.
Just check whether ski fields are still open, since opening times depend on temperatures and the amount of snow that has fallen. Ski fields may close early if snow conditions are bad and/or temperatures remain high for the season.
Whether you are inside or outside of New Zealand, you can always check snow conditions online by using one of the 3 methods for knowing whether it is snowing in New Zealand.
Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.