Frost nipped at Kiwis' toes, collars were zipped up tight against a polar blast and skifields opened early. So what the hell happened to autumn?

It appears it could still be on its way.

Despite a cool start to June, and winter officially getting under way on Friday, milder temperatures are possible by the middle and end of the month, according to Niwa, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

"Temperatures won't be as cold as they have been over the past week," said principal forecasting scientist Chris Brandolino.

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Apart from a cold snap next week in the South Island, June temperatures are expected to be near or above average for much of the country.

June rainfall in the North Island is expected to be near or above average. Much of the South Island, apart from the east coast from Marlborough to North Canterbury, is expected to be drier than normal, especially in the first half of the month.

MetService said a low-pressure system rolling on to the North Island from the Tasman Sea is bringing milder temperatures and rain, but the chill is expected to hang on longer in the south.

Meteorologist John Law said overnight temperatures wouldn't be so low and were even returning to double digits in parts of the North Island. But in the Southern Lakes district, "it will still be really cold" for a few days.

The next snow at Mt Ruapehu is expected today and it is forecast to reach below the skifield carparks.

On Monday, Whangarei in the "tropical north" shivered at 0.8C, its third coldest overnight minimum temperature on record for May.

At Middlemarch the daytime maximum was even lower, at just 0.2C, on Wednesday. That broke the May record, of 2C, set in 2006, for the Otago town's lowest maximum.

The coldest inhabited place this week was Ranfurly in Otago, where the mercury dropped on Friday morning to -9.1C, lower than for all of June 2017 and 2016, according to Niwa. The town holds the national record for the lowest temperature, -25.6C, set on July 17, 1903, MetService said.

Whakapapa skifield on Mt Ruapehu opened its Happy Valley learner area under blue skies on Friday, a day earlier than planned after heavy snowfalls supplemented the field's snow "factory".

Coronet Peak near Queenstown opened for a pre-season "teaser" for skiers and boarders yesterday ahead of its scheduled opening on June 16. Cardrona is doing the same for the whole weekend. During the week, ski tourers trekked up the Pisa and Crown ranges near Wanaka and Queenstown, and Mt Ruapehu to carve some turns on the autumn snow which, unusually, has persisted into winter.

Don't worry, be happy

There are 140 dark, cold days before we get another public holiday near the end of October. But don't despair - there's plenty to cheer you up.

Go skiing

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, which opened its Happy Valley area on Friday, is likely to open other areas - scheduled to start later this month - "a few weeks earlier than usual", says chief executive Ross Copland.

Hot pools

If snow just seems, well, too cold, then maybe your spirits could be revived with a winter soak in a hot pool - at Tokaanu near Lake Taupo, Parakai Springs in northwest Auckland, or at Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury.

Sport from the couch

Football's World Cup tournament in Russia plays out on pay TV - although without New Zealand's All Whites - building up to the final in mid-July.

Then there's cycling's marathon-a-day Tour de France through most of July - another pay TV classic for insomniacs who can stay up watching the long races live at night or night-sleepers who catch the highlights over an extended breakfast.

In international rugby, we have the three All Blacks-France tests, starting next Saturday at Eden Park - but whether they revive or crush Kiwi spirits is unknown.

Get cultural

If sweaty men with bikes or balls aren't your thing, winter is the season of the International Film Festival, showing in 13 cities and towns from Auckland to Gore for varying dates from July to September.

Gigs

Musical highlights of the winter include Bob Dylan's two New Zealand concerts in August and rapper Kendrick Lamar's three next month.

After all that activity you'll need a good rest at Labour Day weekend from October 20 to 22.