But promise of earlier summer still holds, say forecasters

Fresh snow is set to give the ski season a fitting send-off today while heavy winds will continue to batter other parts of the country - but forecasters are reassuring Kiwis they will still get their summer early this year.

South Island skifields Coronet Peak, Cardrona and Remarkables are due to close today and may well end with the second straight day of fresh snow. The late fall has justified the later October 14 finish planned at Mt Hutt.

MetService forecaster Erick Brenstrum said there were snow showers over much of the lower South Island yesterday, making conditions patchy on key link roads including Arthur's Pass, Milford Rd, Lewis Pass, and other high-alpine roads. There could even be snow on the North Island's Desert Rd overnight, he said.


In Auckland winds yesterday, a van tipped on to its side on the Harbour Bridge. Powerful winds were also felt elsewhere, with gusts up to 111km/h on the Rimutakas near Wellington, 87km/h at Invercargill Airport and gale force in Foveaux Strait.

But by later today a ridge of high pressure is due to arrive, bringing sunshine to much of the country.

That warmer weather should be more regular earlier than last summer, Weatherwatch's Philip Duncan said. A weak El Nino pattern was emerging which would mean the prospect of summer reaching our shores in time for Christmas.

"This summer, generally speaking, has the ingredients to be both drier and warmer."

The long range forecast featured balmy, hot days and a bit of rain which would be good news for both holidaymakers and farmers alike, he said.

Until Christmas, there would be some variety. "We're going to have everything thrown at us this month and the next month with no strong weather pattern emerging at the moment."

In September, winds and rain battered the west coast while eastern regions basked in sunshine. The mercury hit 25.5C in Waiau one day and sunshine hours were up 125 per cent on average.

In the country's main cities, Christchurch was the driest and coolest; Wellington was the sunniest, Hamilton cloudiest, Tauranga warmest, and Auckland the wettest.