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End-of-season message from SnowJapan

The following general message will be posted on each of our regional daily 'Now' reports, but is not specific to any region of Japan.

Please read through until the end!

After travel restrictions to Japan were lifted just before last winter, 2023-2024 was the first proper full ski season since covid, complete with the excitement of a build-up. Pre-season expectations were high, and expectations regarding the number of foreign visitors have probably been exceeded.
Throughout this past winter, it was difficult to avoid the subject of 'inbound tourism' in the Japanese media. Much was made of regions being inundated with foreign visitors, helped along by a very weak yen, and various stories of current and future investment.

While such stories from Niseko and Hakuba are nothing new, they seemed to take on an extra dimension this year. Similar-themed reporting from other regions, including Myoko/Madarao, Nozawa, Furano, and others, joined the usual destinations.

Of course, prices of many goods and services have increased over the last few years, not just at ski areas. Japan really isn't used to inflation, so rapidly rising prices have shocked many locals. Some ski areas, particularly those with many foreign visitors, have made significant price increases, making them much more suited to inbound visitors than domestic (Japanese) skiers and snowboarders.

With an increase in talk of various foreign investments, locals have a lot to think about and are trying to work out how to manage these changes whilst trying to retain the traditional aspects and character of their towns.

While some popular ski areas and destinations have enjoyed good visitor numbers and healthy business, that is only one part of the whole story. Many other ski areas in Japan are struggling to survive for one reason or another.

To understand that, we need to remember that many ski areas in Japan opened in the 1980s and 1990s, meaning that in 2024, there are a lot of ski lifts (and other facilities) that are now 30+ years old. Several ski areas have announced permanent closure in the last few years, and one of the reasons is 'ageing facilities'. Other often-seen reasons include increasingly unreliable snowfall and a general decrease in the domestic skiing population. (Remember, most Japanese ski areas remain largely unaffected by the increase in the inbound market). With less revenue and rising operation and maintenance costs, many ski areas simply cannot afford the investment needed to make the necessary upgrades. That will likely be an increasingly prevalent issue over the coming years.

Which brings us on to the all-important subject of snowfall.

2023-2024 was a strange one and far from being a classic. 

It’s really important that there is no misunderstanding on this issue: there was still excellent skiing and snowboarding to be enjoyed. But for us Japan long-timers, with our extremely high expectations/standards borne out of decades of experience, anything less than ridiculously large amounts of consistent and heavy snow ends up disappointing. 

Marketing machines promote Japan promising 'powder snow' as the primary selling point, so there are expectations to meet.

The good news is that many - most? - people visiting Japan for the first time don't feel this kind of thing as we long-timers do. 

Not so good is that almost all regions of Japan received less snow than usual—in some cases, none—and temperatures often remained higher than normal- and in some cases, stubbornly high. That also brought with it more rain than usual. In the end, the few regions that received close to 'normal' snowfall and kept cold enough will consider themselves very lucky.

To get an idea of the Japan-wide situation, about 15 ski areas planned to open but could not due to a lack of snow. At least an additional 70 ski areas had to close temporarily during the season due to a lack of snow, and a fair number had to shorten their planned season. Ski areas across the country, from Hokkaido to western Japan, were affected.

Towards the end of February 2024, it was looking like there would be many more early ski area closures. Thankfully, many regions were blessed with some unexpected snowfall in early to mid-March, along with colder conditions. This welcome surprise allowed many ski areas to remain open until their original planned closing date. Some could even extend their season and stay open longer than initially planned.

The above is not meant to sound 'negative' but to give a clear picture of what we experienced. With our 100% independent non-marketing stance and a strong dislike for hype, SnowJapan is in a unique position to be able to do that. And anyone who knows us will know that no one loves large amounts of snow (and skiing on it) more than the people running this site! It is why this website exists in the first place.

Hopefully, the many visiting people for the 2024-2025 season will be treated to plentiful snowfall whenever they choose to visit.

Interest in Japan and its snow scene is stronger than ever and will surely only continue to grow in the coming years. With such a wide variety of experiences on offer, not just the winter sports, this place that some of us are lucky enough to call home is a wonderful destination.

The actual opening and closing dates for ski areas around Japan can now be found on the individual listings within the site. In the coming weeks, we will add a new interactive chart for the season so that they can be compared.

SnowJapan is updated throughout the year, and it won't be long before we start checking and updating ski area details for the 2024-2025 winter season. 

It never ends! (Good job we love doing it).   :)


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