So here we are. The last day of the official ski and snowboard season in Niseko.
Alas, as I write this just after 10am, the Niseko Annupuri lifts still aren't operating due to windy conditions and the top lift at Niseko Grand Hirafu is also on hold - though the other lifts at Grand Hirafu that should be moving are operating.
By the end of today the ski lifts will be able to take a rest after a long, long season. And of course, a big otsukaresama deshita to everyone working hard to keep the Niseko season going smoothly too.
Today marks the end of my season too and this is my last report. But before I sign off for the season, a bit of a look back...
A quick look back at the 2016-2017 season
Over the winter, at the beginning of each month I added a monthly review. They all of course still apply so I have decided to keep this wrap up short, especially seeing as though there’s a long message from SnowJapan as well (below). Here are my monthly round-ups if you want to go back and read them:
In the end, I observed about 3m less snow at Hirafu base than I did the previous season, and over 4m less than the previous two seasons. As always, remember that my numbers are the snowfall that is observed here at base. You can expect perhaps 1.5 times those amounts at higher altitudes, so I think it's probably safe to guess that there was over 10m of snowfall on the mountain.
7-10m of snowfall in a season may still be what many ski resorts would consider very respectable amounts, but it is less than we expect here in Niseko. As I have mentioned in my monthly round-ups, locals and regulars notice this - we are probably totally spoilt - but first-time visitors probably don't... they just get on with enjoying it!
And thankfully, things tend to keep very cold up here throughout most of the winter and so we do not get the warmer spells and melt as much as resorts on Honshu seem to get. That all helps with keeping the quality (and quantity) of snow.
Now that 2016-2017 is over, it's time to look forward and feel confident that we will reverse the trend of the last few seasons and get back to over 10m at base next season. Let's be totally greedy with our expectations!
For the record, here are the numbers that the Japan Meteorological Agency have recorded in Kutchan Town, a bit lower down than Hirafu:
2016/2017 season until the end of March 2017: 835cm 2015/2016 season until the end of March 2016: 841cm 2014/2015 season until the end of March 2015: 969cm 2013/2014 season until the end of March 2014: 946cm 2012/2013 season until the end of March 2013: 1051cm
As I have mentioned before this season, it’s curious to see how the numbers for 2016-2017 are higher than mine and comparable with last season - and I’m still not sure why. Anyway, interesting stuff all the same.
It has been my pleasure to once again be in charge of bringing you the SnowJapan Niseko Now reports this season. I hope that you enjoyed reading them, even if they didn’t bring you news of quite as much snow as we would all have liked. I had a fun season and I am pretty sure that most visitors to Niseko did to. Most people I spoke to on the lifts this season seemed to be loving Niseko.
And so they should! Because it's brilliant. :)
It's now time for me to take a bit of a rest and enjoy the next six months. Come November I should be re-charged and raring to go for the 2017-2018 season.
I hope to see you then.
A message from SnowJapan.com
This message is being posted on all the daily Now reports on SnowJapan.com at the end of the 2016-2017 season.
Firstly, thank you for using SnowJapan.com and reading our reports. We hope you have enjoyed them and found them to be a useful resource this season. The 2016-2017 season saw another significant increase in the number of people using our website - our daily reports get a lot of traffic and the brand new ‘Snowfall Analysis’ pages appear to have been put to good use too.
Over the winter season a lot of people send us comments and questions. Unfortunately, it is impossible to answer them all so we are going to try to respond to some common questions and comments. (Some of the below comments are ‘reworkings’ of comments that we posted on the reports mid-season).
SnowJapan.com is not a ski resort. Or a travel agency. Or a hotel. Or a ski school.
SnowJapan.com is an independent website publishing information about winter sports in Japan.
Our snow reports are not official ski resort reports.
Our reports are not funded or influenced by ski resorts - or indeed by anyone else. Which brings us on to this very important point…
The integrity of our reporting.
There’s nothing more important to us than this.
We advise the people who write our reports that it is fine to get really excited about excellent snow conditions. Luckily for us, there’s usually lots of those in Japan! But at the same time, it is essential to be clear and honest about things when they are less exciting - like when it is raining, or when there is a lack of fresh snow. Such reporting is not ‘being negative’. It’s reporting the truth, even if none of us particularly like it.
We are not here to sell you anything.
One of the things that makes SnowJapan.com unique is the fact that we are not trying to convince you to visit any one region of Japan. We’re not asking you to book accommodation; or to join tours; or to take ski lessons. We’re not asking you to buy anything - we don’t have anything to sell!
What we are here to do is provide independent and honest information from around Japan. Importantly, information that is free from the inevitable pressures of having to sell and market services.
Increasing pressure to add cheese or sugar
When snow conditions are less than perfect, some people do take issue with our position regarding reports. Sadly, it is a fact that there are some folk out there who would prefer that true conditions are not always known. They would prefer everyone believe that snow conditions are always close-on perfect, just like the brochures. We are sometimes asked by some businesses to avoid some less palatable truths and to sugar-coat the conditions.
That’s just not what we are about.
We make a point of avoiding cheesy marketing words, Overusing Adjectives In Capital Letters, and unrelenting ‘everything is perfect’ descriptions in our reports. Apart from often being exaggerations or worse, they’re often really cringeworthy.
You’ll be able to tell when our reporters are genuinely excited by conditions. And because it is genuine, you’ll know that the conditions at that time are really worthy of excitement.
It seems that most people appreciate our honest approach. To those people - don’t worry, we won’t be changing it.
“Why don’t the SnowJapan.com daily reports appear earlier each morning?”
If we owned and operated a ski resort, we would make it a high priority to post updates as early as possible every morning. We would have our staff up early morning to report how much fresh snow had fallen at top and at base. We’d report snow depth from a few locations consistently every day. We’d also be sure to have multiple and meaningful webcams pointing out to locations around the resort.
But, we do not own or operate a ski resort.
Unfortunately, a fair number of Japanese ski resorts only post morning information after 8am - and sometimes later than that. If we posted our reports earlier than we currently do, we would often miss important information - for example, how much fresh snow ski resorts are reporting overnight; or news of any lift disruption at the start of the day.
Our reports are an ongoing and season-long commentary, rather than simply an early morning snapshot report for gnarly folk waiting for the first lift of the day. (People who are lucky enough to be at a ski resort and heading for first lifts can get a very good idea of weather conditions by looking outside of the window when they get up!)
We feel that our way makes for better all-round reports and a more complete overview of the season.
The people writing the reports.
Of course, there’s also the people who post the reports and their circumstances to consider. They probably need some coffee and toast - maybe even some natto - before spending time writing the reports. They may need to dig themselves out of their home when there’s huge amounts of snow. And they may need to see to other complexities that life throws at them.
Each Now daily report is written by a different person. Each are based in the area that is being covered and in many cases, they have been there for quite some time. We purposefully don’t say who they are, not least because some of them would prefer to remain anonymous.
It is natural that each report will have its own personality and character. Some of the reports are longer than others; some are shorter; some are more humorous; some cover one ski resort; some cover a much wider region.
Posting a report every single day for over five months is a considerable commitment and a real responsibility. And remember, the people posting the reports are real humans - they have their own lives and sometimes circumstance might get in the way.
Why do ‘official snow depth’ numbers often not correspond to how much snow is falling?
In our Now daily reports, the ‘official snow depth’ data is information that the ski resorts themselves publish. We gather that information from official sources to be shown on our reports.
Different ski resorts in Japan report their ‘official snow depth’ number from different places. For some ski resorts, it is being measured at the top of the mountain. For some ski resorts, it is being measured at the base area. For other ski resorts, it is being measured at other locations. There are no consistent rules regarding where resorts take their snow depth measurements.
What about daily fresh snowfall? Well, many ski resorts in Japan do not actually publish a ‘new snowfall’ number on a consistent daily basis from the same spot each day.
And even when they do publish such a number, the ‘official snow depth’ number often doesn’t often rise by a corresponding amount.
There’s a few reasons for that.
Snow is always melting and compacting; groomers, skiers and snowboarders compact it; prevailing weather conditions and temperatures have an impact on how that is happening; wind blows snow around. Nature happens.
It is worth noting that some Japanese ski resorts are wary of reporting huge amounts of snowfall. This may be hard for some of you to believe, but ‘too much snow’ all at once is thought to scare away the Japanese customers. Some Japanese ski resorts would prefer not to add 50cm in one day - even if that much snow fell overnight.
Some ski resorts may also just not update their snow depth number regularly. Simple as that!
So, the snow pack (official snow depth) often changes way more than ski resorts actually report.
And we have no control over that.
About the SnowJapan ‘observed snowfall’ data.
The ‘observed snowfall’ that we publish on each of our reports is the amount of snowfall that our reporters see with their own eyes every day. It is taken from base area levels.
Why base areas? The reason for that is because it is the only place where a reliable measurement can be taken on a consistent basis every day throughout the season.
Does more snow fall at higher elevations on mountain than at base? In most cases, absolutely. And in some regions/resorts, much more than others.
Within the text of our reports we try to report any fresh snowfall data that the ski resorts themselves are reporting from the mountain each morning. (Another reason why we want to wait for that information in a morning).
But it would be impossible for us to report from ‘higher up’ every day, for several reasons. Issues include the ability to get up top every morning (lifts might be closed); where exactly to take measurements from; how we would go about measuring ‘fresh snowfall’ over the period of 24 hours at a location. Remember, we’re not a ski resort.
So, the only place that we can reliably and consistently report from each morning is base.
”You under-report snow!” ”You over-report snow!”
No, we really don’t.
Our reporters report what they see with their own eyes and measure themselves.
Yes, there will be more (or less) snow falling in areas close-by. Someone visiting the same ski resort may experience something slightly different. And actually, both may well be correct. Microclimates and the like. That’s nature for you.
Our measurements are coming to you from the same spot every day - generally very close to ski resort base lifts - and they are being reported by the same trusted individual who is not inclined to exaggerate.
“Why don’t you report more about actual quality of the snow?”
Different people have greatly different expectations and different points of reference when it comes to snow conditions so unless things are indisputably excellent or indisputably rubbish, we feel it’s probably best to avoid going into that kind of detail every day.
“Why don’t you publish a Now report for (insert name of resort)?”
If we could find somebody who we trust 100% to be able to publish honest, unbiased, consistent and informative reports every day throughout the winter season, we would certainly be open to considering adding new report sections to our website.
“Why is there more snow being reported on the ‘A Now’ report than ‘B Now’ report?”
That will be because more snow is being observed at base in ‘A’ than in ‘B’. It’s as simple as that.
Snowfall at higher elevations may well be a different matter - so please read the reports for such details...
We recommend you don’t spent much time comparing the snowfall numbers between regions
We totally understand the temptation to directly compare the snowfall numbers for the different areas, but we recommend that you don’t.
If you must though, at least be sure to look beyond just the numbers. Some regions simply get less snow at base than other regions - but base snowfall is far from being the full story.
If you are contemplating visiting one of the regions covered by our reports, we highly recommend that you spend time looking beyond just the headlines and read the full reports - including our archive reporting from previous seasons. Only that way will you get a true and detailed picture of what is happening and get an idea of how the snow falls in each of the regions and what to expect on-mountain.
We do not claim that our reports are perfect or that they should be viewed as ‘definitive’. You can however use them with confidence as an honest account of the snow season in the areas covered.
We put a lot of time and effort into putting the reports together every day and feel a real responsibility to get things right. While we are aware that we will never be able to provide reports that satisfy everyone, we are always keen to hear on how people feel we can further improve things. And of course, feedback does not always need to be positive!
Having said that, it’s always very nice to hear from friendly folk who just want to say hello and pass on some friendly comments as well.
If you want to contact us, please do so using the form here:
The people behind this website absolutely love snow and Japan. It’s why SnowJapan.com was created back in 1999 and it’s why we continue to put our lives into developing and improving the website every year.
We want nothing better than to be able to report consistent and large amounts of snowfall falling on the Japanese mountains with excellent conditions everywhere. Happily, the Japanese mountains usually enjoy consistently large amounts of snowfall and great conditions. Let’s hope that is what we get for next season.
If you use and enjoy SnowJapan.com, please do let your friends know about us. It all helps.
We appreciate the support.
Our daily report updates will be back in the autumn in the run-up to the 2017-2018 season.