That's it folks, the 11/12 season is officially over for Niseko.
A look back at the Niseko Now reports from November of last year and I see that the first ski lift of the season started moving on Saturday 27th November. So that's nearly five and a half months of resort operations.
So, how about the snowfall in Niseko this season? What a start we had! Lots of superlatives were being used in the first few months of the season - some perhaps going a bit over the top with the hyperbole! - but it certainly was an amazing start with excellent snowfall numbers and conditions for December in particular. It really got the season off to a fantastic start. Over 4m in Kutchan probably translated to over 6m on the mountain!
Early season may be looked on as a bit of a 'risk', and perhaps rightly so, but the people choosing to come early on season this time round were rewarded big time.
Total snowfall numbers weren't quite as impressive in January and less than in the previous season, but that was on the back of that bumper December and with the snowfall regular, conditions remained mostly top notch. We had more good snowfall in February, though things started to ease off somewhat in March this season with a few dry spells.
All in all, I think we can say it has been a very fine season in Niseko and I think that most people visiting this season will have been treated to that famous Niseko snow quality.
As we have been mentioning the official JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency) snowfall numbers this season, it only seems appropriate to mention them once again at the end of the season. Here's the JMA snowfall numbers for Kutchan town over the last 7 seasons. Again, please note that these numbers are for the nearby town area of Kutchan, and NOT the ski resort areas and so keep that in mind.
05/06 - 1,203cm
06/07 - 839cm
07/08 - 887cm
08/09 - 974cm
09/10 - 1,103cm
10/11 - 1,035cm
11/12 - 1,046cm
So, overall slightly more than last year, not quite as much as 09/10 and more than the three seasons previous to that. For those of you who have been following the numbers through the season, you'll remember that the 1970 season was a particularly bumper one - that season there was a total of 2,019cm recorded. It should be noted however that previous to 2005, the instrumentation and methods of observation were apparently different, but even so I think we can still safely say that they got a whole lot of snow that season!
The actual snowfall on the mountain areas will be considerably more than those numbers - perhaps 1.5 times - and this season I have read reports of numbers of over 14m to upwards of 15.5m of snow in Niseko this season.
In a nutshell - a lot of snow! And top quality snow at that.
So the ski lifts are now closed. Booooo!
But, Niseko as a summer destination is becoming more popular each year and people involved in tourism here are very keen to develop the area as a summer destination as well as a winter one. There's a lot going for it - a lot going on (rafting, golf, hiking, nature trekking, mountain biking, zipline, wakeboard park, kayaking, canyoning....), and Niseko enjoys a much more comfortable climate than many areas of Japan in summer. For the most part the northern island of Hokkaido misses out on the humidity and heat that most areas of the main island of Honshu experience from June to September.
Grand Hirafu will be operating their Gondola for the summer period from 23rd June, and the Annupuri gondola will also probably be operating as well for summer. (Sorry, there are no further details available just yet).
SnowJapan is going to see some pretty major updates for next season, and while I am not involved with all of that the general plans that I have heard about all sound very exciting.
Niseko Now will be back when we get to autumn and things start to cool down again after summer, and we will once again cover the whole of the Niseko season - from before the first lift moves to after the last lift closes.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading our Niseko Now reports this season. It has been a long one! Our reports will always be here on SnowJapan to re-read and re-live the season - as well as previous seasons dating back to 2002. We are always wanting to find ways to improve the service, so please do get in touch - any kind of comments, suggestions and feedback are welcome. Your support is very much appreciated - thank you. Our 'mission', for want of a better word, is to provide daily information throughout the season without any of the hype - we are not trying to 'sell' Niseko, but rather let you know what is happening here and information on the season as it happens. That applies to all of the Now reports, of course, not just the Niseko one, and hopefully that comes across in our reporting.
Anyway that's it from me - thanks for reading, enjoy the summer wherever you may be, and see you later in the year!