I'll quickly move on from the cloudy, rainy conditions of yesterday. There's still a lot of cloud around this morning but it is not raining. However, we might not escape some rain later on this afternoon. It's not the most exciting way to end the season, but there you go...
So here we are. It's Sunday 6th May and today is the last day of the official ski season here in the Niseko area with Niseko Grand Hirafu, Niseko Annupuri and Niseko Village all part open for the day. It's worth pointing out that even today the official snow depth on the upper slopes of Niseko Grand Hirafu is 255cm!
A look back at the 2017-2018 season
As has become tradition, over the winter season I add a ‘monthly review’ post at the beginning of each month. And like last year, I will keep this final wrap up relatively short because those monthly reports pretty much cover the season as it is happening.
And of course, please do play around with the info on the Snowfall Analysis page, which you can get to using that big blue button up top. Let’s reading.
As the 2017-2018 season closes, here is the snowfall that I have measured near the base of Niseko Grand Hirafu over the last six seasons over the month of April:
April 2018: 13cm April 2017: 0cm April 2016: 6cm April 2015: 3cm April 2014: 13cm April 2013: 32cm
It's always a bonus when we get fresh snow in the month of April. More important and excite is the grand total for the entire season.
Observed snowfall at base for the 2017-2018 season (total):
Cue drum roll...
17/18 season total: 1260cm 16/17 season total: 688cm 15/16 season total: 992cm 14/15 season total: 1144cm 13/14 season total: 1163cm 12/13 season total: 1493cm
So, we end the 2017/2018 season with me observing about 12.5m of snowfall nearby Hirafu base. That is way more than last season of course, and more than the three seasons prior to that as well. Pretty good.
Take that, most other ski resorts in the world!! ;)
And for completeness, here is the data that the Japan Meteorological Agency report from their observation station in Kutchan town:
April 2018: 25cm April 2017: 4cm April 2016: 18cm April 2015: 3cm April 2014: 24cm April 2013: 27cm
17/18 season total: 1038cm 16/17 season total: 835cm 15/16 season total: 841cm 14/15 season total: 969cm 13/14 season total: 946cm 12/13 season total: 1051cm
Now that the 2017-2018 season has finished, it becomes part of history. Next up is - cue big reveal! - the 2018-2019 season. And 2018-2019 has a lot to live up to.
I will be here, hoping for a top quality season. But however it pans out, I will be giving you honest reporting based on exactly what I see and hear. And I will keep any cheese on my toast!
Anyway, that’s it from me for the moment. I am now going to go into hibernation mode. I will be back with you (hopefully) totally refreshed in November.
I hope you enjoyed reading my reports this season. I did my best and I'm happy that I was able to post every day since the lifts started moving through until today. If you want to send me any comments you can do so here. Please note that unfortunately I will not be able to answer any questions, whether they are about Niseko or toast; but I really do appreciate reading any feedback (and I thank anyone sending comments in advance).
Thank you and see you in November.
End of season message from SnowJapan.com
This message is being posted on all the daily Now reports on SnowJapan.com at the end of the 2017-2018 season. You can access all of the archived daily reports from the 2017-2018 season as well as previous seasons using the links at the bottom of this page.
Thank you very much for using SnowJapan.com and reading our daily reports. We hope you have enjoyed them and found them to be a useful resource.
Once again, we are happy to report that the 2017-2018 season saw another healthy increase in the number of people using SnowJapan and of course the daily reports are a big part of the website. We needed to upgrade our server hardware in March to shiny new servers and now that we are settled in we should be all set for the next few years of further growth.
Every winter lots of people send us comments and questions and unfortunately it just isn’t possible for us to answer them all individually. So, we would like to take this opportunity to answer some of those questions as well as making some other important points about SnowJapan and what we are. (And what we aren’t!)
SnowJapan.com is not a ski resort. Or a travel agency. Or a hotel. Or a ski school.
SnowJapan.com is an independent website that publishes independent information about winter sports in Japan.
Our snow reports are not official ski resort reports.
Our daily reports are not funded by or influenced by ski resorts.
In fact, they are not funded by or influenced by anyone.
Which brings us on to this very important point...
The integrity of our reporting.
This remains the most important thing to us.
We advise the people who write our reports that it is fine to get excited about excellent snow conditions. (Luckily for us, there’s usually lot of great snow conditions in Japan!) But at the same time, it is essential that our reports are 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.
SnowJapan is not here to sell you anything.
There are a number of things that make SnowJapan.com unique. We are not trying to convince you to visit any one region of Japan. We are not asking you to book accommodation. We are not asking you to join tours. We are not asking you to book ski lessons. We are not asking you to buy anything - we don’t have anything to sell!
What we are here to do is provide totally independent and honest information from around Japan. Our information is free from the inevitable pressures of having to sell and market products or services.
There is increasing pressure to hype things up.
When snow conditions are less than perfect, some people take issue with our position regarding reports. Unfortunately, it is a fact that there are some folk out there who would prefer that true conditions are sometimes hidden. They would prefer everyone believe that snow conditions are always close-on perfect… just like in a cheesy sales brochure.
At times we are asked by some businesses to avoid some less palatable truths and to sugar-coat conditions. Some of them even get angry with us when we refuse to do so. We enjoy keeping well out of ‘politics’, but in our position we inevitably hear of various things going on - from behind-the-scenes rivalries to unethical business practices. It really makes us wonder how some people can sleep soundly at night...
But we really like sleeping soundly at night and waking with a clear conscience.
(Very important note: of course, there are lots of really good folk too!)
We make a point of avoiding cheesy marketing words, avoiding The Overuse Of Adjectives In Capital Letters, and unrelenting ‘everything is amazing!!!!’ descriptions in our reports. We find that kind of ‘reporting’ to be really cringe worthy and at best misleading.
You will 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 worthy of real excitement.
We believe that most people reading the reports appreciate this 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 or operated a ski resort, we would make it a high priority to post snow reports as early as possible each morning. We would report how much new snow has fallen on the upper slopes and base, weather conditions, lift operations and snow depth. We would also have multiple and meaningful webcams pointing out to locations around the resort. And we’d make sure that those webcams were backed up with adequate bandwidth to keep them working properly. We think it is probably reasonable to think that ski resorts might ideally be doing the above things for their customers.
But, of course, SnowJapan does not own or operate a ski resort.
The fact is, a fair number of Japanese ski resorts only post their morning information updates after 8am - and in some cases, it is actually later than that.
Our daily reports are generally a mix of observed snowfall data, observed weather conditions, personal comments about what is going on - as well as information/data that has been manually checked from official ski resort sources. This is all in the interest of creating interesting and reports that are as detailed as possible.
If we posted our daily reports much earlier than we currently do (for example at 7am or before), reports would be missing what we consider to be important information. For example, we would often not be able to include things like how much fresh snow the ski resorts are reporting, or news of any ski lift disruption at the start of the day. Things like that.
People who are lucky enough to already be at a ski resort and preparing to ride the first lifts of the day can get a good idea of weather conditions by taking a look outside the window when they get up, asking accommodation staff and/or perhaps checking out official resort sites etc. If we posted our daily reports mostly for the benefit of those first lift people - who probably only account for a very small percentage of the total number of people reading our reports - they would not be as good or detailed as they are.
We feel that our way makes for better all-round reports and a more complete overview of the season.
Remember: real people are writing the reports!
There is a lot of time and effort involved in creating the reports every morning. The reports that cover wider areas in particular - for example Niseko, Hakuba, Yuzawa - take quite a bit of time to put together every morning. Lots of information needs to be checked, data needs to be updated, the report needs to be written and then checked...
The people who are posting the reports are not ski resort employees doing this as part of their job. They probably need some coffee before posting. (Toast in some cases). They may need to dig themselves out of their home if it is snowing heavily. And they may also need to see to any number of circumstances and random complexities that life throws at them on any given morning.
So please keep all that in mind.
Each Now daily report is written by a different person. Each are based in the area that is being covered. In most cases, they have been there for quite some time. We purposefully don’t say who they are, not least because some of them would very much 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 people who have their own lives and sometimes circumstance might get in the way.
Why do ‘official snow depth’ numbers often not correspond with how much snow is being reported as 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. And what they report is of course totally out of our control.
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. It would be great if they did. 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 also worth noting that some Japanese ski resorts seem 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 actually fell overnight.
Some ski resorts may also just not update their snow depth number regularly - simple as that!
So in reality, the snow pack (the ‘official snow depth’) often changes way more than ski resorts actually publish.
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, there’s much more snow up there than at base. That’s one reason why you need to read the report and not just look at that number.
Within the text of our reports we do our best 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 before posting reports in a morning).
It would be impossible for us to report our own observations from ‘higher up’ every day, for several reasons. Issues include the ability to get up top every morning (lifts might be closed some days); 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 operating the ski resorts.
So, the only place that we can reliably and consistently report from every single morning is base.
If you are at a ski resort covered by our reports, there may be some occasions when you might disagree with the snowfall number that is shown in our reports. More (or less) snow may fall in places that are close-by to where our measurements are being taken. Microclimates and the like. That’s nature for you.
All we can say is that our reporters report what they see with their own eyes and measure themselves. 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. Including the individuals who post our reports.
So, unless things are indisputably excellent or indisputably rubbish, we feel that it is best for us to avoid concentrating on that kind of subjective personal opinion in our reports.
"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 individual reports for details.
Also, very importantly...
We highly recommend that you don’t spent much time comparing the snowfall numbers between our different Now reports
We totally understand the temptation to directly compare the snowfall numbers for the different areas in our reporting, but we recommend that you don’t do it.
If you must though, be sure to look beyond just the headline numbers.
Some regions simply get less snow at base areas than other regions.
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.
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 are certainly be open to considering adding new report sections to our website.
We do not claim that our reports are perfect or that they should be viewed as ‘definitive’. You can however use them with confidence that they are 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:
(Sorry, but we are not able to answer individual questions about ski resorts etc)
The people behind this website love snow and Japan. That is why SnowJapan.com was created back in 1999. And it is why we continue to put our lives into developing and improving the website every year.
Keep an eye out for further improvements to the site over the coming months.
If you use and enjoy SnowJapan.com, please do let your friends know about us - it all helps. And if you know of an accommodation or business that might be interested in having a presence on our website, do let them know about us too.
We appreciate the support!
Thank you and enjoy the coming months, wherever you are in the world.
Our daily reporting will be back in the autumn in the run-up to the 2018-2019 season.