25 June 2015

4 reasons Franz Josef Glacier is even better in winter

by Tom at Franz Josef Glacier Guides

Unlike many glacier parks in the Northern Hemisphere, Franz Josef Glacier stays open for business throughout winter.  We’re lucky that winter temperatures in New Zealand are pretty mild in comparison to our northern cousins.

Franz Josef Glacier Guides operates glacier hikes year round.  It’s well worth putting on an extra layer and getting out and exploring during wintertime, it’s one of the most spectacular times to visit the glacier.

In fact, some say a visit to Franz Josef Glacier during winter is the best time to visit.

Glaciers are all about snow and ice, but temperatures in the township of Franz Josef Glacier during winter are not as frosty as you might think.  Winter in New Zealand runs from June to August with daytime temps around 5 – 15°C (41-57°F).  While we love to see snow falling on the glacier, it’s unusual to see snowfall in the township of Franz Josef Glacier because of its low altitude and proximity to the coast.

 So if you’re thinking of visiting Franz Josef Glacier this winter, do it!  But if you’re feeling hesitant, we’ve put together 4 very good reasons a glacier trip during winter is awesome.

1. Things slow down

In the colder temperatures of winter, less melt occurs to the glacier. This means there is less water flowing under the glacier to help it slide down the mountain. Less movement means ice features (like crevasses and ice caves) hang around for longer. And that’s good for you! Check out some of the amazing images below of ice formations we've seen so far this winter.

2. Clean and pristine

There is something truly spectacular about the sight of the blue glacier set against the backdrop of snow-covered peaks. In winter everything looks crisper and clearer - it’s a breathtaking sight. The glacier is less ‘dusty’ which means there’s less debris on the surface of the glacier, as it’s kept clean by snowfall and cold temperatures.

3. Conditions are perfect

When it comes to the weather, there are no guarantees… but we can safely say that the weather in winter is generally more settled than the warmer months. Winter is full of clear, dry days that provide the perfect conditions for helicopter access. You’ve probably heard about the infamous West Coast rainfall, luckily winter time means less rain.

4. Laid back winter

During winter, the Glacier Country region is much quieter than the summer months. The West Coast Glaciers are one of the most popular sights on the South Island so it’s never deserted, but you will find things are a bit more laid back. Enjoy this time of year, especially if you’re heading out for walks. There’s less chance of someone photo-bombing your happy snaps. You’ll probably also pick up on the buzz in the air of travellers heading to Queenstown or Mt Hutt for skiing and snowboarding.

A note about winter driving..

If you’re doing the self-drive thing around the South Island during winter, always check the road conditions before you set off. Some major roads like Arthurs Pass, Lindis Pass or Lewis Pass are subject to snow or ice and can close for short periods over winter. Trucks will drop layers of grit on the roads when there’s snow or ice, so always drive carefully. Road condition updates are available on the NZTA website.

So... what are you waiting for?

Don’t let the change in temperature stop you from seeing one of the most spectacular winter sights New Zealand has to offer. Put on your woolly socks and get out there.

Oh, and you can always warm up with a hot drink at the Glacier Base café after your winter glacier adventure.

Check out these stunning sights captured this winter on Franz Josef Glacier

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