Ski resorts in Japan have recorded up to a metre (40 inches) of snowfall in 72 hours for the New Year. But one, Geto Kogen, reported a fall of 220 cm (over 7 feet) in three days, including a fall of 105 cm. A fortnight after the country’s ski areas recorded up to three metres (10 feet) of snowfall in the days prior to Christmas, the next significant falls are happening right now. Japans weather right now is perfect for ski conditions.
Ski resorts in Japan
Nozawa Onsen recorded 76cm (2.5 feet) of snowfall in 48 hours over New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, according to recent reports. In the past week, Niseko to the north recorded an equal amount of 1.2 metres (four feet) more snowfall. In the same time, Appi Kogen had 158cm (over five feet) of snowfall, and similar significant falls were recorded in other areas.
In most resorts, temperatures are frigid, usually 10 to 20 below freezing. Given the amounts involved, there are also reminders for skiers to be very vigilant about reaching the snow. After the warmest and driest winter in at least 60 years, last winter stunned the nation renowned for its world-beating surplus of light powder, after the snowfall is a great relief for many of the country’s ski areas.
Of course, the pandemic remains a significant problem, and Japan recently closed its borders until at least 31st January for all but necessary international travel. Compared to countries in Europe and North America, virus cases are very low in the country. However, they are still increasing rapidly, and reports suggest that a new ‘state of emergency’ may be declared again, as announced at the beginning of the pandemic last spring.
For now, while most of the leading ski areas of the country have agreed to open up the ‘new standard’ pandemic operating protocols now famous around the world to local skiers and boarders, running lifts and slopes.
Plans can change at the last minute
If the closing of last week’s Australian resorts has taught us something, it is plans can change, even with the best intentions and a massive amount of work and preparation. Aussie skiers were fighting each other two weeks ago for the ability to spend their hard-earned on severely price-hiked lift tickets. Now the season is in disarray, in Victoria at least.
For the Japanese ski season, the presence of La Niña usually means really good things. It’s projected a 50-55% chance of La Niña growing through autumn and lasting through winter.
The possibility of returning to consistent cold days and heavy snowfalls has been sufficient to generate some significant pre-season enthusiasm. Even with all the other troublesome news breaking around us, in what can only be described as an exceptionally frustrating winter last season. Maybe in 15-20 metres of light, dry powder, Japan can bury its COVID problem.
Fresh tracks and no lift queue
If a new world without crowds is considering Japan’s most established international resort, then you can bet that Japan’s other 500 resorts will have fresh tracks a-plenty and that lift queues might well be a thing of the past. In the mix, add the La Niña component, and you’re looking at the kind of Japanese ski holiday we all crave.
This winter, there will be fewer foreign tourists in Japan. But we are hearing that many will turn their focus to the domestic market in an attempt to rekindle the country’s passion for skiing, with Japanese tourism operators already feeling the pinch. Japan has a fascinating culture, and 2021 could be the season for you, to explore Japan for yourself.