It's Monday 6th May and today is the last day of the official ski season here in the Niseko area - Niseko Grand Hirafu and Niseko Annupuri remain part open until this afternoon.
It is an overcast kind of morning with some sunshine and a bit of a southerly wind - at the start of the day the top King lift at Hirafu is on hold. We are forecast some rain later in the day but it might only start after the last lifts close for the day.
A look back at the 2018-2019 season
Regular readers will know that during the winter season I add a ‘monthly review’ post at the beginning of each month. I will keep this final wrap up relatively short because those monthly reports pretty much cover the story of the season. Here are the monthly reviews from the 2018-2019 season:
Please also remember that there is a huge amount of information to check out on the Snowfall Analysis page as well as the report archives from previous seasons (text links towards the bottom of every report).
As the 2018-2019 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 2019: 6cm April 2018: 13cm April 2017: 0cm April 2016: 6cm April 2015: 3cm April 2014: 13cm April 2013: 32cm
Fresh snow in the month of April always feels like a surprise bonus and this season was no different. It’s always fun to see fresh snow but in such small amounts it doesn’t really make much of a difference.
On the last day of the season last year, the official snow depth on the upper slopes of Niseko Grand Hirafu was 255cm. Today it is 160cm.
Observed snowfall at base for the 2018-2019 season (total):
18/19 season total: 951cm 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 2018/2019 season with me observing about 9.5m of snowfall nearby Hirafu base.
That is about 3m less than I observed over the 2017/2018 season; about 3m more than I observed over the 2016/2017 season and similar to what I observed over the 2015/2016 season. Remember, all numbers coming to you from the same spot.
While that number is of course very interesting, what is more important than just the number is how and when all that snow fell over the season.
The tap seemingly being turned off around mid-February this year springs to mind as being one of the big talking points, and that may well provide food-for-thought for people thinking about a spring trip next year. But of course, you really never know; there's every chance we could enjoy really good consistent snowfall next year through March. Muzukashii desu ne!
So again, please do check out my monthly reviews and the Snowfall Analysis page and archive reports to dig deeper into the season and past seasons.
As another bit of data, here is what the Japan Meteorological Agency reported from their observation station in Kutchan town:
April 2019: 16cm April 2018: 25cm April 2017: 4cm April 2016: 18cm April 2015: 3cm April 2014: 24cm April 2013: 27cm
18/19 season total: 883cm 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
Anyway, that’s it from me for now.
As much as I love my Niseko Now duties, it has been a very long season and I am looking forward to a bit of a rest. I will soon be entering my summer hibernation mode but I plan to be back here in November, hopefully totally refreshed and hungry for more.
And I promise you that next year I will once again keep my reporting real and honest, and the Niseko Now reports will be a strictly 'no cheese' zone. (As much as I like cheese, I'll keep it firmly out of the reports and either put it on my toast or make a sandwich or something).
I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading my reports this season. I did my best - cue determined look and clenched fist to convey said determination! - and I am once again happy that I was able to manage a report every day since the lifts started moving right through until today.
Please note that unfortunately I will not be able to answer any specific questions (whether they are about Niseko or toast-related); but I really do appreciate reading any feedback and I thank anyone in advance for sending in comments.
Take care. Thank you. And see you in November. Bai-bai.
A message from SnowJapan.com
This message is being posted on all the daily Now reports on SnowJapan.com at the end of the 2018-2019 season. All archived daily reporting from the 2018-2019 season - as well as previous seasons - can be found 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 guiding you through the Japanese winter season.
This year marks 20 years of SnowJapan and to celebrate we might just enjoy a special cake on our birthday in September. We are happy to report that during the 2018-2019 season more people than ever have been using the site.
Our daily reports are an important part of what we do. Looking back, since 1999 we have published over 25,000 daily weather and snow reports, and over 2,000 reports during the 2018-2019 winter season alone.
We would like to take this end-of-season opportunity to answer some questions/comments that we receive, as well as making some important points about what we are and what we stand for.
* Regular readers may recognise some parts of this message from last year – but many of the same points still apply!
SnowJapan.com is not a ski resort or a travel agency or a tour company 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 sponsored by or influenced by ski resorts (or any other business).
The integrity of our reporting
This remains very 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 what is being observed, even if none of us particularly like it.
SnowJapan is not here to sell you anything
There are a few 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.
In fact, we are not asking you to buy or book anything... we don’t have anything to sell.
What we are here to do is provide good independent information from around Japan. And the way we run things means that we are free from the inevitable pressures of having to sell and market products or services.
There is increasing pressure to hype things up
Some people do take issue with our position regarding snow reports – especially when snow conditions are less than perfect. At times we are asked by some businesses to avoid some less palatable truths and to sugar-coat conditions. To perhaps report more snow than we observe. To not report rain when it is raining (…maybe just ignore it). That kind of thing. Some even get annoyed with us when we refuse to do those things.
We truly love being able to keep out of local ‘politics’ and having to always be wary of sales and marketing issues – we wouldn’t have it any other way - but unfortunately, with the ‘inbound’ market becoming increasingly competitive every year we see this kind of pressure becoming more prominent.
In our reports we make a point of avoiding cheesy marketing words. We avoid endless Superlative Adjectives In Capital Letters. We avoid unrelenting ‘epic conditions!’ style descriptions in our reports. We find that kind of ‘reporting’ to be really cringeworthy.
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 approach. And to those people - don’t worry, we won’t be changing it!
Comment: “I disagree with your observed snowfall’ numbers”
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 close to base area levels.
Why base areas?
Because that 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, yes, absolutely. And in some regions/resorts, there’s way more snow up there than at base.
That is one reason why you need to read the reports 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 as well as any other personal observations. That is one reason why we generally wait for that information to be available before posting reports in a morning.
It would be impossible for us to report our own observations from ‘higher up’ every day of the season for several reasons. Such reasons include the ability to get up to the top of the mountain every morning (lifts might be closed some days, we might be busy); where exactly might such measurements be taken from?; how would we go about measuring ‘fresh snowfall’ over the period of 24 hours at a difficult-to-reach location? Things like that.
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.
Comment: “You under-report snow!” or “You over-report snow!”
(Yes, we get both of those!)
All we can say to this is - our reporters simply report what they see.
If you are in one of the areas covered by our reports, you may well disagree with the snowfall number that is shown in our reports on any particular day. More - or less - snow may fall in places that are even close-by to where our measurements are being taken. Microclimates and the like. That can’t be helped.
All we can say in response to this (accusation) is that our reporters report what they see and measure themselves. Our measurements are coming to you consistently from the same spots 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.
Again: the observed snowfall numbers are not being measured from mid-mountain or upper-mountain.
Every year we review the situation for each report in an effort to keep on improving - and we will once again be doing the same this year.
Comment: “Your reports are useless for my epic backcountry adventures and avalanche studies”
Sorry about that. But we do not claim that our reports provide detailed daily back-country information or scientific avalanche data.
Comment: “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. That includes 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.
Comment: “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 really is as simple as that. Snowfall at higher elevations will surely often be a different matter - so please read the individual reports for details beyond the numbers.
And for that reason...
We highly recommend that you DO NOT compare the base snowfall numbers between our different Now reports
We understand the temptation to directly compare numbers between the different regional reports. However, we highly recommend that you do not do that.
If you must though, be sure to look beyond just the headline numbers. Observed base snowfall is far from being the full story. There is so much more beyond those numbers.
Some regions simply get less snow at base areas than other regions. That does not mean they get less snow at the top of the mountain.
If you are contemplating visiting one of the regions covered by our reports, we highly recommend that you spend time looking beyond the headlines and read the full reports - including our archive reporting from previous seasons. Only that way will you get a true and more 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.
Unfortunately, we cannot help it if some people do not properly read our reports. Or mis-interpret and mis-quote them. (Please don’t do that).
Comment: "Why don’t the SnowJapan.com daily reports appear earlier each morning? I’m already on the lift at 8:30am."
If we owned or operated a ski resort, we would make it a high priority to post snow reports very early 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... we do 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 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 each morning. 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), they would more than likely 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.
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 lucky ‘first lift’ people - who probably only account for a very small percentage of the total number of people reading the reports each day - 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.
Please remember, real people with good intentions are writing the reports
There is a lot of time and effort involved in creating the reports every morning. In particular, the reports that cover wider areas - 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 these reports are not ski resort employees doing this as part of their job. Our reporters probably need some coffee before posting and 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.
Comment: “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. Bottom line - 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? Somewhat frustratingly, 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 are 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 sometimes 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’) will be changing way more than most ski resorts actually publish.
We do not claim that our reports are perfect.
We do not claim that our reports should be viewed as ‘definitive’.
We do not claim that our reports provide detailed backcountry and avalanche information.
We do however put a lot of time and effort into putting the reports together every day and we feel a real responsibility to get things as right as possible.
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 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, accommodation, ski lessons, transportation, etc. And we never respond to rude people.
Keep an eye out for further improvements to the site over the coming months. You may have already noticed our new Q&A Community area that went online in March. We will be busy with a number of other things over the next six months.
If you use and enjoy SnowJapan.com, please do let your friends know about us. 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 summer.
Our daily reporting will be back in the autumn in the run-up to the 2019-2020 winter season.