Good morning from Hakuba.
Today (Sunday 7th May) is of course the last day of the official ski and snowboard season in Hakuba.
From tomorrow, the ski lifts will be rested and no doubt there will be lots of ‘otsukaresama’ parties going on in the village this week. I might even be going to a few myself!
The weather is suitably fine for this last day of the season. Much better than the rainy conditions that we had yesterday. The sun is out and it should be comfortably warm - not too much. Resort operations should be as they were yesterday and hopefully not affected by the wind that is being reported at higher elevations.
Let’s take this opportunity to a look back on the 2016-2017 Hakuba season.
After the disappointing 2015-2016 season, there were a few worries in the early part of the season. It was Thursday 8th December when the first ski lifts were able to start moving and it kind of took a while for things to get going properly. Some people were inevitably starting to see similarities to the slow start of the previous season...
But then things really kicked into gear in style in the second week of January and from that point things felt like they were ‘back to normal’. That’s what we like!
There were a few warmer and wet spells mid-season, but generally we enjoyed good snowfall and some impressive snowfall numbers being reported especially on-mountain.
I have enjoyed some fantastic days this season and often enjoyed excellent snow conditions. Of course I am lucky enough to be able to time my outings but I have talked to quite a few people on the ski lifts and in bars in the evening, and it would seem that most people were having huge amounts of fun and loving the snow in Hakuba.
The trend of more and more visitors from overseas once again shows no sign of slowing down. Let’s international!
An important word about snowfall numbers
Note: personal opinion!
The ‘observed snowfall’ number that I report each day is how much snow I observe near Happo-one base. It’s basically how much snow you can expect at village/base levels. ‘Hakuba’ covers a fairly wide area and so there is at times inevitably going to be more or less snow in different parts of the village and by different resorts.
For more of an explanation of this reported ‘observed snowfall’ number - and why we report it - please read the SnowJapan message that can be found below.
I think it is true that Hakuba typically gets less snow at village level compared with some other regions. My good friend lives over in Yuzawa town in Niigata Prefecture and we often compare and discuss this kind of thing. Yuzawa town is at an elevation of around 360m and they get famously impressive amounts of snow falling at that level. The ski resorts over in Yuzawa mostly have less vertical than the ski resorts in Hakuba. The mountains are also mostly smaller and upper elevations are not as high. This all means that in Yuzawa the difference in the amount of snow falling at town and on the ski slopes is less than the difference that we experience here in Hakuba.
(They also generally don’t enjoy the same quality of snow as we do in my opinion -- but that’s an entirely different and controversial topic to fight over!) ;)
The ski resorts in Hakuba get a lot more snowfall at higher elevations than down at base levels. As this is of course an important point, every day I make a point of reporting the on-mountain snowfall numbers that the ski resorts around Hakuba are themselves publishing each morning. I mention this snowfall every day in the individual ski resort data part of my reports, as well as near the top of my reports.
So I really wouldn't be surprised if there was as much snow falling up there as falls on the mountains in Yuzawa.
Whatever... it's a lot! :)
Nature is of course very complex and reporting on snow is never going to be simple and clear-cut especially in an area as wide as Hakuba.
Anyway, I do my best with the reporting and I tell you what I see with my own eyes each day.
Once the lovely spring weather is out of the way, the ‘rainy season’ will be next up and then into summer. Even here in Hakuba, the summer heat can be brutal - but we have those beautiful large mountains to climb and we are able to escape to higher altitudes. Ropeways will be operating to help you get up there. Please do check with the resorts for the latest information.
That’s it from me for the 2016-2017 season and this is my last report of the season.
On behalf of the good folks running SnowJapan, thank you for reading the Hakuba Now reports. I’ll be back again later in the year when things start cooling down and the 2017-2018 winter season is approaching.
See you in autumn!
A message from SnowJapan.com
This message is being posted on all the daily Now reports on SnowJapan.com at the end of the 2016-2017 season.
Firstly, thank you for using SnowJapan.com and reading our reports. We hope you have enjoyed them and found them to be a useful resource this season. The 2016-2017 season saw another significant increase in the number of people using our website – our daily reports get a lot of traffic and the brand new ‘Snowfall Analysis’ pages appear to have been put to good use too.
Over the winter season a lot of people send us comments and questions. Unfortunately, it is impossible to answer them all so we are going to try to respond to some common questions and comments. (Some of the below comments are ‘reworkings’ of comments that we posted on the reports mid-season).
SnowJapan.com is not a ski resort. Or a travel agency. Or a hotel. Or a ski school.
SnowJapan.com is an independent website publishing information about winter sports in Japan.
Our snow reports are not official ski resort reports.
Our reports are not funded or influenced by ski resorts - or indeed by anyone else. Which brings us on to this very important point…
The integrity of our reporting.
There’s nothing more important to us than this.
We advise the people who write our reports that it is fine to get really excited about excellent snow conditions. Luckily for us, there’s usually lots of those in Japan! But at the same time, it is essential to be 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 the truth, even if none of us particularly like it.
We are not here to sell you anything.
One of the things that makes SnowJapan.com unique is the fact that we are not trying to convince you to visit any one region of Japan. We’re not asking you to book accommodation; or to join tours; or to take ski lessons. We’re not asking you to buy anything – we don’t have anything to sell!
What we are here to do is provide independent and honest information from around Japan. Importantly, information that is free from the inevitable pressures of having to sell and market services.
Increasing pressure to add cheese or sugar
When snow conditions are less than perfect, some people do take issue with our position regarding reports. Sadly, it is a fact that there are some folk out there who would prefer that true conditions are not always known. They would prefer everyone believe that snow conditions are always close-on perfect, just like the brochures. We are sometimes asked by some businesses to avoid some less palatable truths and to sugar-coat the conditions.
That’s just not what we are about.
We make a point of avoiding cheesy marketing words, Overusing Adjectives In Capital Letters, and unrelenting ‘everything is perfect’ descriptions in our reports. Apart from often being exaggerations or worse, they’re often really cringeworthy.
You’ll 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 really worthy of excitement.
It seems that most people appreciate our honest approach. To those people - don’t worry, we won’t be changing it.
“Why don’t the SnowJapan.com daily reports appear earlier each morning?”
If we owned and operated a ski resort, we would make it a high priority to post updates as early as possible every morning. We would have our staff up early morning to report how much fresh snow had fallen at top and at base. We’d report snow depth from a few locations consistently every day. We’d also be sure to have multiple and meaningful webcams pointing out to locations around the resort.
But, we do not own or operate a ski resort.
Unfortunately, a fair number of Japanese ski resorts only post morning information after 8am - and sometimes later than that. If we posted our reports earlier than we currently do, we would often miss important information - for example, how much fresh snow ski resorts are reporting overnight; or news of any lift disruption at the start of the day.
Our reports are an ongoing and season-long commentary, rather than simply an early morning snapshot report for gnarly folk waiting for the first lift of the day. (People who are lucky enough to be at a ski resort and heading for first lifts can get a very good idea of weather conditions by looking outside of the window when they get up!)
We feel that our way makes for better all-round reports and a more complete overview of the season.
The people writing the reports.
Of course, there’s also the people who post the reports and their circumstances to consider. They probably need some coffee and toast - maybe even some natto - before spending time writing the reports. They may need to dig themselves out of their home when there’s huge amounts of snow. And they may need to see to other complexities that life throws at them.
Each Now daily report is written by a different person. Each are based in the area that is being covered and in many cases, they have been there for quite some time. We purposefully don’t say who they are, not least because some of them would 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 humans - they have their own lives and sometimes circumstance might get in the way.
Why do ‘official snow depth’ numbers often not correspond to how much snow is 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. There are no consistent rules regarding where resorts take their snow depth measurements.
What about daily fresh snowfall? Well, many ski resorts in Japan do not actually publish a ‘new snowfall’ number on a consistent daily basis from the same spot each day.
And even when they do publish such a number, the ‘official snow depth’ number often doesn’t often rise by a corresponding amount.
There’s 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 worth noting that some Japanese ski resorts are 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 fell overnight.
Some ski resorts may also just not update their snow depth number regularly. Simple as that!
So, the snow pack (official snow depth) often changes way more than ski resorts actually report.
And we have no control over that.
About the SnowJapan ‘observed snowfall’ data.
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 base area levels.
Why base areas? The reason for that is because it 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, absolutely. And in some regions/resorts, much more than others.
Within the text of our reports we try to report any fresh snowfall data that the ski resorts themselves are reporting from the mountain each morning. (Another reason why we want to wait for that information in a morning).
But it would be impossible for us to report from ‘higher up’ every day, for several reasons. Issues include the ability to get up top every morning (lifts might be closed); where exactly to take measurements from; how we would go about measuring ‘fresh snowfall’ over the period of 24 hours at a location. Remember, we’re not a ski resort.
So, the only place that we can reliably and consistently report from each morning is base.
”You under-report snow!”
”You over-report snow!”
No, we really don’t.
Our reporters report what they see with their own eyes and measure themselves.
Yes, there will be more (or less) snow falling in areas close-by. Someone visiting the same ski resort may experience something slightly different. And actually, both may well be correct. Microclimates and the like. That’s nature for you.
Our measurements are coming to you from the same spot 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.
“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 so unless things are indisputably excellent or indisputably rubbish, we feel it’s probably best to avoid going into that kind of detail every day.
“Why don’t you publish a Now report for (insert name of resort)?”
If we could find somebody who we trust 100% to be able to publish honest, unbiased, consistent and informative reports every day throughout the winter season, we would certainly be open to considering adding new report sections to our website.
“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’s as simple as that.
Snowfall at higher elevations may well be a different matter – so please read the reports for such details...
We recommend you don’t spent much time comparing the snowfall numbers between regions
We totally understand the temptation to directly compare the snowfall numbers for the different areas, but we recommend that you don’t.
If you must though, at least be sure to look beyond just the numbers. Some regions simply get less snow at base than other regions – but base snowfall is far from being the full story.
If you are contemplating visiting one of the regions covered by our reports, we highly recommend that you spent time looking beyond just the headlines and read the full reports – including our archive reporting from previous seasons. Only that way will you get a true and 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.
We do not claim that our reports are perfect or that they should be viewed as ‘definitive’. You can however use them with confidence as an honest account of the snow season in the areas covered.
We put a lot of time and effort into putting the reports together every day and feel a real responsibility to get things right. 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 of course, feedback does not always need to be positive!
Having said that, 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:
*** Contact SnowJapan.com using this form
The people behind this website absolutely love snow and Japan. It’s why SnowJapan.com was created back in 1999 and it’s why we continue to put our lives into developing and improving the website every year.
We want nothing better than to be able to report consistent and large amounts of snowfall falling on the Japanese mountains with excellent conditions everywhere. Happily, the Japanese mountains usually enjoy consistently large amounts of snowfall and great conditions. Let’s hope that is what we get for next season.
If you use and enjoy SnowJapan.com, please do let your friends know about us. It all helps.
We appreciate the support.
Our daily report updates will be back in the autumn in the run-up to the 2017-2018 season.