How seasons change

New Zealand is mountainous. As a result, the change of seasons (and weather overall) can feel very abrupt.

This last weekend we picked what I think were the last strawberries of the season. They were small and shrivelled, but sweet.

Today, first snow of the season will fall on the high mountain roads. State highway 6 (Haast Pass), 8 (Lindis Pass), 73 (Arthur's Pass) - all main "arterial" routes for inland South Island - they are all to receive about 30 centimetres of snow on the higher sections of road tonight. It'll probably all melt by tomorrow lunchtime, but nevertheless - it's the first proper snowfall of the season.

In two weeks' time when I drive our car from Invercargill to Christchurch, in preparation for our trip to Europe, it's going to depend on weather - whether I take the "straighter" route through inland highways or go the "long way" via the coast where the road is lower and less prone to snow.

It's not to say we only get snow in winter - sometimes big storms can dump brief loads even in March and February when the weather is otherwise summery. But it melts quickly.

From now onwards however, the ground will start cooling, and the snow persisting, and the winter approaching, and the mountains will soon remain white. Soon enough there will be a juxtaposition of us having occasional lovely warm days in our backyards, all whilst the mountains in the background will be covered in all-winter snow. Inland towns will fill up with snowboarders and skiers, ready to enjoy the short skiing seasons of the Southern Hemisphere. And then, in July and August and September, occasional strong storms will bring snow all the way down sea level - but it will melt quickly. It doesn't stay on the coast.

It's the life of a mountainous country: having multiple climate zones within sight.

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