Snow and weather reports posted on Monday 25th May 2020
Monday 9th May 2011, 9:21am
Well, that's it for this season folks... for the resorts anyway, as the ski lifts are all resting now after a long season.
After a short rest and time for checking though the Gondolas will be back moving again for the "Green Season" operations. Dates as follows:
Happo: 14th May - 30th October
Goryu: 16th June - 30th October
Tsugaike Kogen: 20th May - 3rd November
Hakuba 47: 16th July - 4th September
Hope you had a great season. A season wrap-up will be following soon....
Season wrap up:
Although the season in Hakuba got off to a slow start this last season, things really picked up quickly. Temperatures fell to those of the good ol' days and the snow just kept coming. From December 20th through the end of January there was hardly a day when you could not find powder in or just off the resorts. Temperatures didn't climb above 0C in the valley until mid February when the snows stopped the skies opened up and there before us in all her glory were the Hakuba peaks. It felt as though it was a lifetime that we hadn't seen the steep Alpine slopes that had been hiding behind the cloud and continuous snow falls. These were great days for perfect views and the stability was good which meant trips into the expansive Hakuba backcountry was where it was at.
Hakuba seemed to be in the spotlight this year for professional free riders all over the globe as we saw a new film crew each week from North and South America and Europe come in to explore Japan's Northern Alps. There was some serious lines being done by the likes of Lucas Debari and Xavier De La Rue who set the scene early in January and then the TGR crew set up shop in Hakuba for 3 weeks which allowed Jeremy Jones and Forrest Shearer ample time to savour some of Hakuba's steep and deep backcountry.
After the mid season dry spell we were pleasantly surprised when the end of February brought cold northerlies and great powder once again all through March. Unfortunately, however, the rapid temperature drop and healthy dumps of fresh snow brought with it some of the most dangerous avalanche conditions. There were incidents almost every day in the out of bounds side country areas at Goryu, Happo and Tsugaike, as well as one heli evac from the low elevation backcountry of a experienced american backcountry skier who was in critical condition on arrival to hospital but pulled through with multiple internal injuries. Unfortunately, I believe people became just a little too laissez faire with the great snow stability of the mid season pack and possibly a bit too amped up with all the pros doing sick lines everywhere around the valley.
One of the most tragic events of the season in Hakuba was the avalanche death of Hakuba guide, Tetsu Ishikawa, along with two of his clients on that very ominous March 11th, the day of the Tohoku magnitude 9 earthquake and the devastating tsunami that followed. I was instructing an avalanche awareness course on that day and remember that the stability was poor and moved my group safely back down the mountain to a point close to Tsugaike resort where we dug pits, studied the snow pack and practised avalanche rescue drills when we felt the ground shake beneath us. It was not until we reached the valley bottom that we heard of the great tsunami and avalanche involvement. The search for Tetsu began early the next morning and lasted 3 days while the search up and down Japan's East Coast for those still missing amongst the rubble and destruction continues to this day so that family and friends might be able to say parting words.
In the wake of March 11 much of north eastern Japan was crippled and a greater concern became apparent, that of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. There was much panic created by mass media misinformation around the planet that unfortunately continues to this day. No one in Japan is taking this present crisis lightly of course and authorities work each and every day on cooling the reactors and reducing the radiation that is leaking from them. In saying this the radiation outside of a hundred km radius is negligible and most of the country, however solemn, has returned to life as usual. There is much work still to do to fix the Daiichi Plant and secure the safety of those within a hundred kms of the plant as well as get the areas affected along the east coast back on their feet and housed.
Great efforts directly after March 11th to assist those in need meant that the Japanese were not travelling and ski resorts were barren of guests from within the country and from overseas. The snow, however, in Hakuba continued to fall and those happy to be safe in the Japanese Alps continued to enjoy the good snow conditions. There was a feeling in Japan at the end of April that it would be best for all concerned if the people of Japan began to travel within the country and provide any boost to the economy that they could rather than just direct aid. It was at this time that Hakuba with it's still deep snow pack was enticing for those wanting to ski and ride and enjoy life again. Don't feel for a minute that the people in need have been forgotten, however, as there are more people now than before volunteering their time in areas worst affected and continuing to collect needed goods and donate to the relief efforts each and every day. It would also be a great assistance to the people of Japan and those along the east coast if overseas travellers returned to Japan, as it is safe to do so as long as you stay away from the Fukushima Power Plant.
The last lifts in the Hakuba valley closed yesterday for the 2010-2011 winter season and the Gondolas will reopen soon for spring and summer hiking (see previous report). For those keen enough, there will still be plenty of snow in the alpine for backcountry touring and riding those big bowls. But do keep in mind that until the snow has all melted off that there is still chance of avalanches and rock slides. This was driven home again only a week ago when 2 backcountry snowboarders died in an avalanche on the Hakuba Daiseke from slopes above.
This season will not be forgotten any time soon. We have had one of the best snow seasons that I can remember and yet we have also seen more death and destruction than any have seen in peace time. It is a season to give thanks for what we have and respect the great energy that is nature.
All here in Hakuba look forward to seeing you in these spectacular mountains again very soon.
The ski and snowboard season is now over in Zao with yesterday being the last day of the season. Of course, the Ropeways don't get much rest in Zao and we are quickly into the Green Season for tourists. In fact Zao Ropeway is still operating this morning, though the ski season is officially over.
Maintenance on the Ropeways planned as below:
Zao Chuo Ropeway - closed from today until Thursday 12th May Zao Sky Cable - closed from today until Friday 27th May. Zao Ropeway - closed from Friday 13th May until Thursday 19th May.
I hope you enjoyed reading the reports this season. It certainly wasn't a normal one with all that happened from March 11th onwards of course. Thoughts remain very much with the many people still living with the aftermath of those events on the east coast of Tohoku.
As for Zao, life is pretty much back to normal now and everyone is hoping for a good summer season. It is beautiful and cool here, so I hope to see people out and about.
Sometime summer report aside, these Zao Now reports will be back to this section of the site as we get into the autumn months and the 2011/2012 snow season approaches.
Monday morning and only Kagura remains open now in the region.
Looks like the No5 top pair lift is not open today and the plans for operations up until Friday 13th have that as closed. So it's just the Gondola and the No1 quad at Kagura open, with the course to the right of the No1 quad lift at Mitsumata remaining open.
We have some blue skies this morning and the sun is out. In town the temperature is 18 degrees and it will likely rise to around 24 early this afternoon. Rain is forecast for tomorrow.
Good morning and welcome to the last stretch of the season at Nozawa. We just have the Nagasaka Gondola as well as the two top Yamabiko quad lifts open now until the resort closes at the end of business on Sunday 15th May. Courses open are the Yamabiko B, C, D and E runs (the resort has closed the A course area).
All seems very quiet this morning. The sun is out though and some blue skies and so a nice day to be out there in these mild spring conditions. In the village it will likely rise to about 20 degrees today. Tomorrow might not be the best day to be out there though as we have some heavy rain on the forecast and perhaps later in the week too. Things are looking more encouraging though for the last weekend as the forecast stands now.
Lift operations at Nozawa Onsen:
Monday 9th May until Sunday 15th May: -Nagasaka Gondola -Yamabiko quad lift -Yamabiko No2 quad lift Read more ...
Shiga Kogen Now!
Monday 9th May 2011, 10:11am
Just part of Kumanoyu and Yokoteyama/Shibutoge in the south area of Shiga Kogen now remain open as the warmer conditions see snow melting away from many parts of the areas. It's a lovely morning here and very mild, though from tomorrow it looks like we need to be ready for some wet and rainy conditions on and off for a few days - even high up.
Official resort snow depths as of 9th May 2011 AM:
Yokoteyama: 110cm Kumanoyu: 90cm
Updated resort status (subject to change):
Kumanoyu: No2 pair lift remains open until 15th May. Please note - Kumanoyu is a skiers-only area.
Yokoteyama – Shibutoge:
Yokoteyama No 2, No 3 Sky lifts and the Shibutoge pair lift will all be open until conditions permit. The resort plans to be open until the end of May. Read more ...
Monday 9th May 2011, 10:16am
Sun, some cloud
After a bit of a wild day yesterday with some noisy winds, it's a calmer morning here early on with the sun out and some fine blue skies.
Fewer lifts moving this week, see below, and just the Gondola and main quad lift moving at the main Kagura area. No snow cover problems at all yet up there, though as you would expect very much spring conditions.
It's going to be raining tomorrow and unstable conditions for a few days but hopefully it will have cleared up by the weekend.
The end of the season is here! Seki Onsen is having a special photo event on the 10th and 11th with some big domestic skiers (not sure if the lifts will be running or not), but probably not something many of us will be interested in.
It was an interesting season, to say the least. Outstanding powder through January, a mild February (again; I wonder if what used to be the big snow month is now going to be the mid-season rain and snow-goes break), and then excellent conditions well into April.
But then there was March 11, and confusion. Some of the local resorts seemed to be ready to shut down as soon as possible; our thanks to the Akakura resorts, Seki and others who stayed open all the way through without claiming a lack of electricity, extreme empathy, sheer exhaustion or whatever.
Myoko basically was unaffected by the Tohoku earthquake or the much stronger local one on the 12th, except that tourism has been pummeled and is not improving (but that's true everywhere, it seems). We're physically not that far away from Fukushima, but a jetstream away—radiation levels here have absolutely stayed within normal levels. In short, there's no reason not to be here.
I hope many people will in fact come and visit next season; it's likely that there will be great travel deals! It's one of the easiest ways to support the rebuilding of Japan, in fact; people need work, and there's nothing less important about someone who works in a hotel or helps run a lift. If they have money, they'll support shops and restaurants and car dealers and so on, and things will get better.
Well that's it, season 10/11 is officially over with all lifts on the mountain closing at the end of yesterday. Time to look back on the season that was and I'll do that month by month.
Sure October is not actually part of the ski season but a pretty big snowfall near the end of the month transformed the region, covering everything in white right to sea level. Is was quite spectacular the contrast between the gleaming white snow and the last of the colours of autumn remaining on the trees. A few more intrepid souls hiked up the mountain to get what were the first powder turns of the season.
In a normal year we will start seeing regular snowfalls to village level begin from the 2nd week of the month. And last November things started pretty much on cue in the 2nd week with a reasonable amount of snow falling but then just stopped and warmed up again. And although snow started to fall again in the last week it was not enough to get lifts open. Pretty unusual to have no lifts operate at all in November so it was definitely quite a late start.
December is usually a very snowy month but it started out very mild with temps in the first week getting well above freezing and a mix of rain and snow. It wasn't till the 2nd week that we saw winter really arrive and the mountain start to be able to really open up some runs. From the 15th we saw solid snowfalls and the snow base rapidly increased. Although the snow eased in the 3rd week the last week of the month saw more good snowfalls. At the start of the month there was only around 25cm of snow in the village and 45cm up higher. By the end of the month there was around 80cm in the village and near 2m up high. Overall it ended up a really late start to the season for up here. And although snowfalls were enough to get the whole mountain open by the 3rd week of the month total snowfall for the month was still quite a bit below average.
Jan is the snowiest and coldest month on average and this last Jan ended up considerably snowier and colder than average. Finally Niseko really turned it on and the deep powder we're famous for was abundant for most of the month. At least some snow was recorded on 29 of the 31 days in the month and 11 of those days recorded 30cm or more. Up near 6m of snow fell at village level. It was the snowiest Jan we've since the huge 04/05 season. Overall it was an awesome month with snow quality as good as it gets anywhere in the world. Snowdepths on the slopes by the end of the month were well over 2m at the base and cracking the 4m mark up high.
Not normally as snowy as Jan but still a very solid month with average snowfalls up near 4m expected up high. This last Feb though didn't see a continuation of the awesome snowfalls in Jan. In fact it ended up being the 2nd sunniest Feb on record and snowfalls ended up being only around half the average for the month. Bluebird days are normally very rare up this way for much of the winter but this last Feb probably had more such days than is normal for a whole season. Nice if you like to work on the goggle tan but not so great if you're hoping for face shots on every turn. It was great month though to head out backcountry where good quality snow could still be found on slopes not affected by the sun.
March is the month that we locals really love as the crowds of peak season start to thin out and snowfalls are normally still very consistent. This last March was no exception with at least 2.5m of snow falling which is a bit above average. Of course in the wake of the earthquake and ensuing disaster from the tsunami and nuclear crisis a large portion of bookings cancelled. The mountain though was unaffected by the issues experienced further south so those of us remaining had an almost empty mountain to enjoy to ourselves. Fresh tracks all day long were to be found for much of the month.
April really sees the snow start to end, especially at lower levels. This last April though remained very cool and snowfalls on the upper mountain probably cracked 1m. This kept the cover in great condition throughout the month and there were a few days of knee to thigh deep powder in the first week of the month. The stronger sun and rain though inevitably took it's toll on the lower slopes and by the end of the month it was starting to get quite patchy at the base. Still top to bottom skiing remained possible right up till yesterday. Pretty amazing really considering the base of the resort is only around 250m above sea level.
So overall it wasn't one of the epic seasons. Although Jan and March were great with above average snowfalls Nov, Dec and Feb were well below average and quite dissappointing. The lateness of the start was also unusual. In the end we had a bit over 13m at village level and around 16m on the upper mountain. Most ski areas in the world would be incredibly happy to receive such amounts but for here it was around 2m below the long term average. Not a bad season by any means but not as consistent as we're used to here.
The earthquake, tsunami and ongoing nuclear issues have certainly had a major impact on tourism to Japan and I suspect will have continuing major implications for next ski season here. I can only say that this region is pretty much totally unaffected and if you do come you will be able to have an awesome ski experience on what will probably be the quiestest the slopes have been in years. I know I'm already looking forward to it!
This is the last report that I will doing for Niseko Now as I will not be in Niseko for the whole of next season. I would like to thank the guys at SnowJapan for giving me the opportunity to do these reports. It's been a real pleasure to report from a resort that gets so much snow! Niseko is without doubt one of the snowiest ski resorts on the planet with some of the most consistent powder you can find anywhere. It truly is an amazing place and I hope many of you will return next season or head over for the first time. If you haven't skied deep, dry powder before this is one of the best places to get your first experience of it.
Editor: Thank you for the great reports and best wishes for what's ahead.
Looking ahead on here, Niseko Now will be back in the run up to the 2011/2012 season, so we hope to see you in the autumn.