When picturing New Zealand, it’s easy to think about the expanses of grassy fields, bright blue waters, and snow-capped mountains. But, sometimes it’s easy to forget that snow falls on more than just the mountains for roughly half the year.
For those looking to live or travel in New Zealand, it’s good to note when and where you’ll most likely find snow. After all, you should be able to make plans in order to embrace or avoid the snow accordingly. If you are planning to visit New Zealand then make sure to read our guide on the best time to visit New Zealand first.
We’ll break down the best times and locations to get the most out of New Zealand’s snowy season.
New Zealand Snow Season
Since New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, it experiences summer during December through February and winter during June through August. You can expect snow to fall from late Autumn through early Spring. The peak months for snowfall are from late May to August. Of course, some of New Zealand’s high-altitude inland mountain ranges are capped with snow year-round.
Where does it snow in New Zealand?
One of the aspects that make New Zealand so spectacular is how diverse its landscape is. The island nation contains beaches, wetlands, plains, mountains, and glaciers among other features. Given the overall length of New Zealand’s islands, you can expect a good degree of climatic variation depending on where you are.
You can find most of New Zealand’s snow on the inland areas and mountains of the South Island and on the higher altitude locations of the North Island. Since the South Island generally stays cooler than the North Island, it is the best bet for finding snow. As a result, many of New Zealand’s ski resorts are located in the mountains of the South Island.
When does it snow in New Zealand?
Typically, April is pretty light on the snow front since temperatures are just starting to cool down. If you find any snow, it’ll probably just be a light dusting on the peaks of mountains. Even then, it’ll be lucky if the snow lasts for more than a day.
May (late Fall)
May is a little more temperamental weather-wise as you won’t know what kind of precipitation to expect. Sun often gives way to rain and snow, especially as you progress later into the month. May is known for its occasional heavy falling of snow where a good amount falls in a short period of time. However, these bouts don’t usually last long and are fairly rare. Since it’s still a little too warm, any snow that actually reaches the ground should melt in less than a day or two. For those looking to travel in New Zealand, your best bet is to avoid May. It’s not very fun to be cooped indoors on accounts of the unpredictable weather during a vacation.
June is deemed as the ‘early-season’ for many of New Zealand’s ski resorts. That is because many of the mountains get a full coating of snow for the first time this month. Skiers looking for shorter lines should definitely hit the slopes this month. Schools aren’t on winter holiday yet, so you won’t have to compete with as many other people. But even though the mountains are fully coated in white, it’s still rare to get much, if any, snow on the ground. The temperatures are still fairly variable around this time.
Schools are out and snow is falling—or at least sometimes it is. Once again, precipitation remains unpredictable during this month. You should be able to see snow on the mountains consistently now, but the ground is a whole other story. Depending on the temperature, precipitation will vary between rain and snow throughout the month. In general, it remains pretty cloudy. Some years, snow can fall for days on end causing roads to shut down. Or, snowfalls one day and temperatures rise the next creating a frequent freeze and melt see-saw. Other years, you might get far more rain than snow. Look out for high winds and cold spells during July too.
If you like snow, August is the best month for it. Especially in early August, you can expect snowstorms and polar blasts. Snow will definitely be hitting the ground at least a few times throughout the month. Up in the mountains, you’ll find deep layers of snow and throngs of happy skiers. Even in the inland regions of the North Island, you’ll likely find a good amount of snow.
By September, snow will start to slow down again. Although there will likely be a couple more periods of snowfall, they will begin to become more spread out. This is all dependent on temperatures and location, of course. The mountains will continue to be snow-covered for a while, so you can still get in some last skiing adventures, but you’ll definitely notice less snow on the ground. In this month, New Zealand will transition from winter to spring. If you’re lucky, you may be able to catch some of the first blossoms poking out.
The tail end of New Zealand’s snow season is in October. It is very rare to find any snow on the ground anymore, but high mountains may still have some snow on them. You’ll get the occasional bout of cold temperatures, but from now on it’ll start to warm up again.
For seeing New Zealand in all its snowy glory, August and the South Island is the ideal time and place. The month is consistently cold enough to sustain snow for longer periods of time, and the higher altitude locations will also ensure that. June and July can also be good times to enjoy the snow.
I’m Jenny and I whilst I love being an expat in Auckland I could not find any reliable advice or guides online from someone who had actually made the move to New Zealand. So I decided to create this blog which offers free advice for expats by an expat. Hopefully you will find everything you’re looking for (and what I wish I knew before) here but if you can’t please do contact us.