Yes, it really was very, very cold

17:00, May 31 2014
COLD ONE: Rural Waikato’s first winter frost.

Aucklanders survived their coldest start to winter on record but it's all good news for skiers, with a stellar season predicted on the slopes this year.

Metservice meteorologist Liz Walsh said Auckland experienced its coldest May temperature on Wednesday morning, when the needle hovered just above freezing at 0.9 degrees Celsius.

The last time the temperature hit the all-time low of 0.9C in May was in 1976, Walsh said.

Further south, Christchurch was having an even colder time, hitting a low for May: minus 4.7C.

But this was not the coldest May temperature for Christchurch, it got down to -5.3C 13 years ago.

Wellington was also weathering a colder start to winter than last year, with a May low of 2.6C on Friday night.


But it was well above the capital's May all-time low of 0.6C.

Walsh said the high-pressure system across the country meant clear skies, which coupled with longer nights and light winds meant frosty days.

Everything is pointing to a stellar season on the slopes this winter, with an El Nino weather pattern brewing, but snow junkies should keep their fingers crossed for a few storms carrying rain that will turn into dumpings of fresh powder, Walsh said.

Haka tours founder Ryan Sanders said his company had been running snow tours for the past seven years and bookings for his seven-day ski safaris were up 40 per cent for this time of the year.

The increased interest, spurred on by the early start to winter, meant the tour company was expecting to add another four tours to this season's itinerary, bring the number of seven-day trips to 20, Sanders said.

He said it was hard to predict what the snow was going to be like throughout the winter but all the indicators were pointing to a "bumper season".

Some slopes had shifted their opening dates forward this year to account for the early snow, he said.

Mt Hutt in Canterbury will be the first ski resort to open next Saturday, followed by Cardrona in Queenstown on June 20 and both sides of Mt Ruapehu in the central North Island on June 28.

Visit Ruapehu general manager Mike Smith said although there had been an early cold snap it was hard to say whether the ski-friendly weather would continue.

"Snow in May will never stay."

Smith said it was difficult to shift the opening dates forward based on an unexpected cold snap as the weather was unpredictable and the mountain brought in an additional 700-800 staff for the season.

"It's early days but it feels like it's going to be a pretty good season."

Meanwhile, the rest of the weekend would be a "tale of two islands", Walsh said. Conditions would be fine and frosty in the South Island but a low pressure system would bring rain and warmth to the east and northeast of the North Island including Bay of Plenty and Auckland.

Sunday Star Times