Today is the last day of the official ski and snowboard season here in Niseko, and the day starts off cloudy and quite windy up top once again with the chance of a few spots of rain at times this morning.
There will be some people hiking up beyond today to access the remaining snow – as of today, Niseko Grand Hirafu is still officially reporting of over 2m of snow on the upper areas of the resort – but after today the ski resorts will be officially closed for the season.
It was an interesting and rather unusual winter season in Japan. As you may well know if you read the other daily reports here on SnowJapan (highly recommended), it was generally a very mild winter. Lots of regions that usually get dumped on with ridiculous amounts of snow were at times looking to the skies and struggling for regular fresh snow. Very odd for sure, and the season definitely was not the norm. Many older locals have been heard saying they had never experienced a season with so little snow.
Hopefully 2015-2016 will turn out to be a ‘one-off’ in that respect and next season things will be more like normal everywhere in Japan. I think it’s important to be aware that this last season should not just be taken on face value... there’s much more going on behind the headlines.
Happily for us in Hokkaido and here in Niseko, aside from the long time that it seemed to take for the season to get going properly at the start of the season, we enjoyed mostly consistent snowfall and very decent amounts of it as well. And while we didn’t get quite as much snowfall as we have had in the previous seasons in total, I still observed just under 10m of snowfall here in at the base Hirafu village area.
So not bad at all, and certainly not when you see how other regions of Japan fared...
Let’s take a look back at the Niseko season and the numbers.
As always, a bit of a ‘disclaimer’. My observed snowfall numbers are observed by myself each morning – and from the same open spot here fairly close to Hirafu base. As you would expect, there’ll often be more snow on the upper areas of the mountain – and people generally say that there’ll be around 50% more. The quoted Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) numbers are the official numbers that they record from Kutchan town at a point a bit lower down than here in Hirafu.
All of the archived Niseko Now daily reports are always available to read on SnowJapan, so if you want to get a complete detailed picture of the season - and indeed previous seasons - then please do go back and have a good read! You can find all of the archives at the bottom of this page. Note that in the first few days of each month I have taken a quick look back at the numbers from month that had just finished.
The first day of the season – and by that I mean when the first ski lift started moving here in Niseko - was Tuesday 1st December 2015.
The numbers in brackets below are the accumulative numbers over the season.
My observed numbers: November 2015: 61cm (plus 3cm in October 2015) November 2014: 30cm November 2013: 123cm
JMA Kutchan numbers: November 2015: 35cm November 2014: 41cm November 2013: 99cm
My observed numbers: December 2015: 244cm (308cm) December 2014: 519cm (549cm) December 2013: 275m (398cm)
JMA Kutchan numbers: December 2015: 195cm (230cm) December 2014: 387cm (428cm) December 2013: 258cm (357cm)
My observed numbers: January 2016: 303cm (611cm) January 2015: 257cm (806cm) January 2014: 461cm (859cm)
JMA numbers: January 2016: 258cm (488cm) January 2015: 230cm (658cm) January 2014: 317cm (674cm)
My observed numbers: February 2016: 266cm (877cm) February 2015: 196cm (1002cm) February 2014: 178cm (1037cm)
JMA Kutchan numbers: February 2016: 210cm (698cm) February 2015: 167cm (825cm) February 2014: 130cm (804cm)
My observed numbers: March 2016: 109cm (986cm) March 2015: 139cm (1141cm) March 2014: 113cm (1150cm)
JMA Kutchan numbers: March 2016: 125cm (823cm) March 2015: 141cm (966cm) March 2014: 118cm (922cm)
My observed numbers: April 2016: 6cm (992cm) April 2015: 3cm (1144cm) April 2014: 13cm (1163cm)
JMA Kutchan numbers: April 2016: 18cm (841cm) April 2015: 3cm (969cm) April 2014: 24m (946cm)
So, in the end I observed 992cm of snowfall here in Hirafu village over the whole season. That compares with about 11.5m at the same point over the previous two seasons but the shortfall is mostly explained by - and blamed on - the month of December 2015. Here’s to a much quicker start and snowier December 2016.
Once again we have had a very busy season here in Niseko.
I even heard a bit of Japanese being spoken on some days!
I’m just joshing! ...but yes, Niseko has a very international feel about it indeed. Some people really love that about the place - some people less so. Take your pick!
With more people turning up to Niseko each year and it continuing to become ever more well known, the slopes can get very crowded at peak times. The rush to the powder on a fresh powder morning is something to behold... have a lie-in on some days and you’ll be out of luck.
As I commented in some of my reports, sometimes people are waiting for lifts to start moving more than 30 minutes before they actually open. You’d be hard pushed to find that happening in (m)any other Japanese ski resorts! But that’s what happens when a place becomes extremely popular.
And of course there are many reasons why Niseko is so popular. Marketing can only go so far and there’s got to be something of substance behind it all – and when it’s on full power, the snow conditions in Niseko can be truly incredible.
Those of you who follow my reports will know how strong winds annoy me and again this season there have been too many days when top lifts have been stopped due to windy conditions. Can’t we do something about that please!? I do feel for people who visit and find lifts not moving for multiple days.
So there you have it. That was the 2015-2016 season.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope that if you managed to visit, you did too.
Thank you very much for reading my Niseko Now reports here on SnowJapan. I hope that you enjoyed following them and found them to be useful and interesting. It’s clear that there are a lot of people reading the reports from all around the world every day. The numbers of page views every day are quite shocking… in a good way! But I try not to think about any of that when I’m writing the reports. I just want to give everyone a totally honest and clear account of the Niseko season – from the first day until the last day - and I hope I succeed in doing that.
I will of course be back here once again next season doing just that.
I also want to take this opportunity to say that I really do appreciate all of the comments and suggestions that people send in about the reports and the site in general, as do the guys running the site. If you want to get in touch and/or just want to send in some comments, please use the Contact form on SnowJapan. If it's Niseko Now related, it'll get to me! (But please note that it's not a form to ask us specific questions regarding trips to Niseko).
Anyway it is now time for me to enjoy a bit of a rest and do some re-charging after a long winter.
If you are planning on visiting the area during the ‘green season’, please note that the weather forecasts on the resort pages of SnowJapan are updated throughout the year. Here is the page for Niseko Grand Hirafu, check the 'Weather Info' tab at the top:
I will be back posting new Niseko Now reports here on SnowJapan in the autumn when the 2016-2017 season is fast approaching. The ski resorts will once again be aiming to open in the later part of November 2016.
Until then, thank you very much and goodbye.
Niseko Now ski lift operation notes:
5th May is the last day of the season for the ski resorts in Niseko