The Aussie blizzard ahead in detail – plus snow for New Zealand

incoming storm
Storm on the way at Hotham today. Pic: Chris Hocking

The snow internet is going into meltdown this week with big talk of a metre plus of snow ahead for Australia with more cold fronts than Meryl Streep in Big Little Lies, which is what that metre of snow will be if it doesn’t show up.

Our meteorologist, Alex Zadnik, is immune to froth. He wisely leaves that to us. But even we are wary as the fronts approach because we’ve all been burned before this season with big predictions and bigger disappointments.

So we’ve asked Mr Zadnik to tell us like it is, step by step for each front from today until Sunday and into early next week. He has given it to us in his weekly report with his usual straight up style but you can be guaranteed as soon as the blizzard hits we’ll be frothing.

Australia, your time is nigh

After a run of settled almost spring-like conditions over the past week, a more typical August pattern is set to blast the New South Wales and Victorian resorts with a healthy dose of fresh snow over coming days. 

Today (Wednesday 7th) we will see precipitation increase over the resorts, particularly those in Victoria, as a developing frontal system edges closer from South Australia. This precipitation will probably fall as rain on the lower slopes but snow is possible on the higher runs of Buller, Falls Creek, Hotham

Temperatures will drop during Thursday morning as the front moves through, allowing snow to fall to lower levels.

Snow totals on this day will depend on how quickly this temperature drop occurs, but it’s likely that most resorts in New South Wales and Victoria will see 15-30cm by the end of the day. The higher peaks of New South Wales may even exceed 30cm all things going well. Strong to occasionally gale-force northwest winds are expected to reduce visibility.

A small but intense low pressure system will sweep past the resorts during Thursday night and Friday morning, delivering a renewed burst of cold air, gale-force winds and snow. This relatively small synoptic scale weather feature will be quite dynamic, which makes pinpointing its track difficult.

This small weather feature is likely to bring additional 20-30cm falls to Victorian resorts through Friday. But New South Wales resorts may see 30-50cm if the low follows the current projected track of the leading numerical weather prediction models.

Again visibility and winds will be an issue for those wanting to get out amongst it, but there could be some improvement in conditions late in the day for those wanting to ski some fresh snow. 

Snow showers will continue on and off through Saturday as a cold west-south westerly airflow persists. Visibility may be an issue at times given falling snow and fresh to strong winds, but it still looks like a good day to take advantage of the fresh snowfalls.

There looks like being one additional surge of very cold air across the resorts on Sunday as winds tend more southerly. This should also bring an additional boost of high quality powder snow, although accumulated totals will not be as high as previous days (due to diminishing moisture levels and a less favourable direction).

Visibility may still be reduced at times on Sunday, with falling snow and fresh to strong winds, but there is some prospect that there will be clearer breaks. 

Skies should clear and winds should ease for Monday and Tuesday, so these look like easier days to enjoy the fresh snow. 

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New Zealand, keep dancing

It’s been a big week for fresh snow across New Zealand, including some low level falls. Sunday saw an especially cold polar airmass sweep across the nation, with snowflakes falling in Queenstown.

On the North Island, Ruapehu now has a base of 200cm on the upper mountain and close to 100cm on the lower slopes. Mt Hutt’s snow base ranges from 85cm on the lower slopes to 130cm up high. The upper slopes of The Remarkables and Cardrona are also above 100cm. Coronet Peak and Treble Cone are still below the 100cm mark, but the snow quality is excellent given the recent cold conditions. 

The Queenstown and Wanaka ski field areas should see snow showers redevelop through Wednesday and increase into Thursday as a cold front moves through. Mt Hutt will be largely sheltered through this period but may pick up some light snow falls on Friday with the tail end of this system.

Friday looks like a great day for Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona and Treble Cone with well below zero temperatures and reasonable visibility. Winds may increase late in the day, so make the most of the morning and early afternoon.

A complex low pressure system will cross the South Island over the weekend and should deliver substantial snow falls to Treble Cone.

Ski fields further south around Queenstown should also see fresh snow, but the main band of precipitation looks like sitting just to the north of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, which may limit totals.

Mt Hutt should also see fresh snow on Saturday and Sunday, particularly around the higher slopes. Snow showers should continue across the South Island on Monday as another blast of cold polar air sweeps through behind the low. 

On the North Island, weather conditions will deteriorate from Wednesday through Friday. Strong to gale-force northwest winds are expected at Ruapehu, along with heavy precipitation.

In fact, similar conditions look like persisting right through until Monday with the approach of the complex low pressure system from the west. This heavy precipitation should bring large snow accumulations to higher parts of the mountain (above 2000 metres) but rain is likely below about 1700-1800 metres until colder air arrives on Monday.

A persistent feed of sub-tropical moisture between Wednesday and Monday does mean that over 200cm of snow is possible for the higher parts of Ruapehu through this 6-day period, but it is likely to be quite wet and heavy snow, rather than powder. 

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.