The impression most of us have of Australia is a vast arid desert-like climate. While much of this continent in the southern hemisphere does have a very dry and hot climate, there are places where the temperatures are more moderate and the seasons well defined. Snow is a regular occurrence in many of the southern parts of Australia.
Snowfall averages 40 inches (100 cm) per year in the mountainous southern regions of Australia. Most of the snowfall happens in the states of Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales. There are rare snowfalls in some of the plateau regions in the north. The most snowfall in Australia is found between 3,200 and 5,000 feet (1,000 and 1500 meters).
Snowfalls, even at the higher elevations, are unpredictable. Nationwide, the average annual snowfall is only 4 inches (101.6 mm). However, during the winter months between June and August, places like Thredbo get enough snow to support a thriving winter sports resort market. Several other locations at the higher altitudes in the mountains also support skiing, snowboarding, cross-country, and snowmobiling.
When Does it Usually Snow in Australia?
Australia sits below the equator in the southern hemisphere. The winter months in Australia are generally considered to be June through August. At most of the ski resorts in the mountains of southern Australia, the ski season runs from June through October. The opening and closing dates are dependent on the temperatures and the man-made snowmaking capacities of the ski resorts.
Many factors figure into the snowfalls in southern Australia. Overall average temperatures, Antarctic weather patterns, and currents in the southern Pacific Ocean all influence the temperatures, humidity, and precipitation at the higher altitudes where snow typically happens.
Where Does the Most Snow Fall in Australia?
Most of the snow in Australia falls in three Australian states. The states of Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales see the bulk of the snow that happens in Australia. These three states also boast the highest elevations in Australia. The elevations and the southern latitudes make these areas destinations enjoyed by winter sports lovers.
The mountains of southern Australia boast many small ski areas and some major ski resorts. The small towns of Thredbo, Perisher, and Charlotte’s Pass are some of the most well-known. The Snowy Mountains area, made famous in the movie Snowy River, has peaks that rise to 7,300 feet (2,228 meters) and is considered a snow lover’s paradise with some of the best scenery to be found.
Perisher, New South Wales
There are four separate ski resorts in the Perisher, New South Wales area. These resorts are Perisher Valley, Blue Cow, Smiggin Holes, and Guthega. In total, these resorts compromise 1,245 hectares (3.076.4 acres). You can enjoy five different terrain parks and slopes on seven mountains.
The Perisher ski area averages 75 inches (190 centimeters) of natural snowfall per year. Winter temperatures range from average highs of 57.2 degrees F (14 C) to lows that can approach 25.7 degrees F (-3.5 C). The coldest recorded temperature at Perisher is -3.1 degrees F (-19.5 C).
Kanangra/Boyd National Park, Blue Mountains, New South Wales
Just a one-hour drive from Sydney, Australia, lies the Blue Mountains. This is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Australia. Within the Blue Mountains sits the Kanangra-Boyd National Park. Typically, the heaviest snowfalls in the park happen in August, so plan your visit accordingly if you want to see snow in the Blue Mountains.
Snow usually accumulates on the mountain peaks rather than in the valleys making access to snow somewhat of a challenge. Mount Katoomba, a 3,314 ft peak (1,010 meters), has recorded high temperatures near 80 degrees (30 C). On average, the Blue Mountain regions average around 50 degrees F (10 C) to lows that can reach 30 degrees F (-1 C).
Charlotte Pass, New South Wales
Charlotte Pass is by no means the largest ski area in Australia, but it is the highest in altitude and receives the highest annual snowfall of any ski resort. This area is part of the Snowy Mountains and hosts the tallest mountain in Australia, Mount Koscluszko. Not only is this the highest peak in Australia, but it is also the coldest, having recorded a record low of -23 C (-9.4 F).
The average annual snowfall in Charlotte Pass is estimated at about 39.9 inches (1,014 mm.) Most of the snow falls between May and September, with accumulations that can reach 2.5 to 3 meters (98 to 137 inches). Be warned that when the snowfall begins, access to this area by even 4-wheel drive vehicles is limited.
Mount Buller, Victoria
You can make a day trip to Mount Buller from Melbourne. A typical winter in Mount Buller will provide snowy cold periods that average 2.4 meters (94.4 inches) of snow per year. The snowfalls are usually rather small, but their consistent nature can provide excellent base conditions. Mount Buller typically receives 67 days of snow per year.
The coldest month at Mount Buller is usually July, when low temperatures average 2.7 degrees C (27.1 F). The average high temperatures in July can be expected to reach 3.2 degrees C (34.5 F).
Does Melbourne, Australia, Get Snow?
Snowfalls in Melbourne are rare events. However, it is possible and does happen. One of the rare snow events in Melbourne usually occurs in July when the coldest temperatures can be expected.
Don’t expect large snow accumulations in Melbourne when it does fall. The average temperatures run between 45 degrees F (7.2 C) and 60 degrees F (15.5 C). In most years, Melbourne will only experience one or two snowy days per year.
When it does snow, the event is usually associated with Antarctic air moving in from the south during periods of higher humidity. The intense cold air doesn’t usually persist for more than a few days when the rather balmy climate of Melbourne returns.
Does Sydney, Australia, Get Snow?
You are much more likely to see rain in Sydney during the winter months of June through August than to experience snow. Typically, the average temperatures in Sydney during this period range from 8.8 degrees C (47.8 F) to highs of 17 degrees C (62.6 F). The last recorded snowfall in Sydney happened in 1836, and no measurable snow has occurred since that time.
The entire snow event dropped only 4 cm of snow in Sydney. The temperature on that day in Sydney only dropped to 3.3 degrees C (37.9 F). It just goes to show that freezing weather is not a requirement for snow.
Does it Snow in Perth, Australia?
Snowfalls are more commonly associated with the easter coast of Australia. However, snow is known in the western areas of the country.
In fact, snowfalls have been recorded regularly in Western Australia since the beginning of recording in 1846. Perth doesn’t usually see snow, but the hills surrounding the city often see a dusting of white during the winter months.
Accumulations are slight and usually only last a few hours or a day at most. Don’t plan a ski vacation in Perth, but if conditions are right, you might be able to find snow in some of the higher elevations inland.
What Are the Largest Snowfalls in Australia?
Australia, by and large, isn’t noted for blizzard-like snowfalls. However, there are some historically significant winter storms that have left an impression on many people who were there to experience them. Unfortunately, climate change may have put an end to these kinds of rare events in Australia.
Below are the top 5 most significant snowfalls in Australia:
- September 1, 1981: The most impressive total on our list occurred in 1981 when, on September 1, a snow depth of 361 CM (142 inches) of snow had accumulated at Spenser’s Creek ski area. No season since that time has recorded more snow, although there have been some memorable snowfall seasons.
- August 11, 1964: This was a record year if you pay attention to the historical data. At the opening of the ski season, the snow depth was 55 CM (21.6 inches). By the middle of July, there was 155 CM (61 inches) of snow. On August 11, the measurements totaled 355.6 CM (140 inches) of snow.
- September 11, 1956: Hydro began keeping records of snowfalls in the Spencer area in 1954. In 1956, recordkeepers noted a snowfall at Spencer’s Creek of 381.3 CM (125.3 inches). Many people wonder just how deep the snow might have gotten in this area earlier in the century before recordkeeping began.
- September 17, 1992: Spencer’s Creek makes the list again in 1992. This time a record-setting snowfall of 316 CM (124 inches) blanketed the region. Some experts point to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines the year before as the cause of the exceptional weather in Australia.
- October 4, 1968: Spencer’s Creek felt mother nature’s force in October 1968 when 307.1 CM (120.9 inches) of snow fell on the region. Spencer’s Creek experienced a total of 22 weeks where the snowpack was over 100 CM (39.3 inches) deep.