Wednesday 6th May 2015. The last day of the official ski season in Niseko (though no doubt some people will be hiking up places beyond tomorrow to access remaining snow).
It's a fine morning with a mix of blue sky and cloud.
I'll try not to dwell on the strong wind conditions that are messing with lifts on this final morning of the season. Unfortunately as I write this, only the lower Jumbo Number 1 lift at Annupuri and the Ace Number 2 Center four quad and Ace Number 3 lifts at Hirafu are moving, limiting options for everyone wanting to get in their last turns. Naughty wind.
Anyway enough of that and onto my 'season summary' bit.
The first day of the season – and by that I mean when the first ski lift started moving - was Friday 5th December 2014. If my calculations are correct, that means that the season here has lasted some 153 days.
Now that the season is over, here’s my last look at the various data. As always, a bit of a ‘disclaimer’ before anyone gets upset... my numbers are observed by myself each day, from the same open spot here in Hirafu. As you might expect, there’ll often be more snow on the upper areas of the mountain – perhaps around 50% more. The quoted Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) numbers are the official numbers that they record from Kutchan town, a bit lower down than here at Hirafu base.
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 equip yourself with a big cup of your preferred beverage, sit down and have a good read! You can find all of the archives at the bottom of this page.
The numbers in brackets below are the accumulative numbers over the season.
My observed numbers: November 2014: 30cm November 2013: 123cm
JMA Kutchan numbers: November 2014: 41cm November 2013: 99cm
It was something of a late start to the season this time round, with considerably more snow falling in November 2013. In fact, resorts wanted to be opening on 23rd November and people were starting to get a bit worried with the season only got started on 5th December...
My observed numbers: December 2014: 519cm (549cm) December 2013: 275m (398cm)
JMA Kutchan numbers: December 2014: 387cm (428cm) December 2013: 258cm (357cm)
Once it started snowing though, it decided to do so in style for the month of December. Take a look at my Hirafu numbers in particular... we got tons of snow falling in December 2014 with the total snowfall easily overtaking the previous season despite the later start. Loads of snow. An excellent December.
My observed numbers: January 2015: 257cm (806cm) January 2014: 461cm (859cm)
JMA numbers: January 2015: 230cm (658cm) January 2014: 317cm (674cm)
The interesting thing about the months of December and January over the last two seasons is how they kind of swapped positions. The month with the most fresh snowfall in 2014-2015 season was easily December, with January not delivering us as much fresh. It was completely the other way round in the 2013-2014 season with January being the month experiencing the most fresh snowfall. I don't have numbers in front of me but I would expect last season to be the more 'normal' pattern. The pattern over the last two seasons can very clearly be seen if you compare the graphs on SnowJapan’s observed snowfall comparison page (below).
It wasn’t just Niseko but most regions of Japan seemed to get more snow in December than January. I can imagine it makes it all the more difficult to choose when to visit...
My observed numbers: February 2015: 196cm (1002cm) February 2014: 178cm (1037cm)
JMA Kutchan numbers: February 2015: 167cm (825cm) February 2014: 130cm (804cm)
My observed numbers: March 2015: 139cm (1141cm) March 2014: 113cm (1150cm)
JMA Kutchan numbers: March 2015: 141cm (966cm) March 2014: 118cm (922cm)
My observed numbers: April 2015: 3cm (1144cm) April 2014: 13cm (1163cm)
JMA Kutchan numbers: April 2015: 3cm (969cm) April 2014: 24m (946cm)
The remaining three months of the season saw largely comparable numbers, and of course both seasons ended up with a similar total, with around 11.5m of snow being observed falling here in Hirafu.
Not bad hey?
Remember all of this data is shown in that lovely little table further down this page; I encourage you to take a look at the data and Now reports on SnowJapan from other areas of Japan, not just Niseko. (It's all very interesting - and for resort base areas, there was actually one area that got over 4m more snow than Niseko!)
It has been another very busy season for Niseko with more people visiting from more places around the world. Lots of languages to be heard. Even including some Japanese! ;) A real party atmosphere going on in the main areas with a bustling nightlife. More people and an ever growing reputation with skiers and snowboarders around the world means that the slopes are getting more crowded though, with a huge rush to the powder on a fresh powder morning... lie-in's not recommended.
There have been too many days affected by strong winds again of course. I do feel for people who visit and find lifts not moving.
Still, nowhere can be perfect I suppose.
And of course there have also been many fantastic days with the beautiful snow conditions that we expect.
So there you have it. That was the 2014-2015 season. I enjoyed it and I hope that you did too if you managed to get here.
Thank you very much for reading the Niseko Now reports on SnowJapan this season. I hope that you enjoyed following them and found them to be useful - it's a bit scary almost seeing just how many people actually read these reports. I try not to think about that when writing them. I will gambarimasu once more next season - please do tell your friends.
I also want to say once again that I (and SnowJapan) appreciate the comments and suggestions that people send in about the reports and the site in general. If you want to get in touch please just use the Contact form on SnowJapan - if it's about these reports, it'll get to me!
Anyway I am going to enjoy a bit of a rest now. Hopefully it will be a fine summer up here in Hokkaido. As you are no doubt aware, it’s a very fine place to be when there’s no snow around as well. If you are planning on visiting it's worth mentioning 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 2015-2016 season is approaching. No doubt the ski resorts will once again be aiming to open in the later part of November.