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View Snow Roundup #65

Ja Ski Japan

When you ski Japan you’re on the slopes of one of the world’s leading ski nations and the main ski country in Asia. There are more than 500 Japanese ski resorts spread across the country – a number only matched by Austria, Germany and the United States.

The ski centres stretch across the country and have a reputation of excellent snowfalls, particularly on the northern island of Hokkaido where annual snow accumulations are normally among the deepest in the world, officially only beaten by Mt Baker in Washington State just across the Pacific in the USA.

Skiing in Japan also has the longest history of downhill winter sports in the continent, with the sport introduced by famous Austrian pioneer Hannes Schneider from the Arlberg who popularised skiing in early films and books all over the world and is now commemorated in a dedicated ski museum in Nozawa Onsen, one of the country’s best known resorts where Schneider taught skiing in the early 1920s.

Most of the resorts are comparatively small in extent but in some cases up to a dozen small areas are inter-linked or at least very close together, such as the many sectors of 1998 Winter Olympic venue Nagano – one of two Olympics staged in Japan, the only country outside Europe, the US and Russia to stage a winter games.

The evolution of wintersports in Japan is a unique one and reflects both economic and consumer trends.

While in most first world countries with a long history of skiing the sport gradually grew and matured and has remained relatively stable for two or three decades now, interest in skiing among the Japanese population peaked in the 1980s and then dramatically dropped at the start of the 1990s after a collapse of the Japanese economy coincided with growth in interest in other activities, particularly computer gaming.

Skier numbers declined from 20 million a year to around a third of that number, although they have now recovered to about 10 million.

During the boom years Japan was known for having very crowded slopes – there are almost no drag lifts in the country and multiple chairlifts deposited Japanese skiers en masse at the top of slopes. As Japan is a very polite and respectful society, this rarely caused the kind of bad temper, pushing and shoving it might in Europe or North America and instead everyone made space. Many ski areas were efficiently accessed by rail from the country’s cities too and skiers would arrive in the early hours of the morning to ski through the small hours as ski areas operated nearly 24 hours a day to cope with demand.

Another consequence of the 1980s popularity of skiing was that in its early years, snowboarding was largely banned on the country’s slopes, with resort managers seeing no reason why they should complicate matters by allowing boarders on their ski runs. There was also little of the Western model of diversification in activities and resort facilities. There were basic hotels, ski runs only, childcare facilities were rare and while most skiing nations have a mix of nationalities on their slopes, non-Japanese skiers very rare too. This was partly due to the lack of any languages being spoken or signage other than Japanese and partly as the Yen was riding high making skiing very expensive.

The ski boom also led to Japan being a pioneer of indoor skiing with one of the world’s earliest centres opened in the 1950s and in the modern era a dozen indoor centres opening in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including what is still the biggest ever built – the SSAWS dome in Tokyo harbour with a 500m long, 100m wide slope built on earthquake absorbing piles to save the centre from the potential danger of an indoor avalanche. This centre was eventually demolished to make way for Japan’s first IKEA store, having never repaid its construction costs.

Indeed the 1990s saw many Japanese ski areas mothballed. Japanese business ownership rules meant it was generally better to close a ski centre down and leave it potentially operational rather than dismantle it.

Seeking to re-invent itself, the country’s major ski areas have, particularly in the last decade, followed Western business models far more, diversifying their resort activity range, dining and accommodation options.

None has been more successful in doing so than Niseko which has risen to worldwide fame as a cult free riding resort attracting powder hounds from around the world and particularly Australia, as Aussies have realised they have a shorter trip and no jet lag travelling to Japan than their traditional choices of Canada and to a lesser extent the US and the Alps. This has allowed Niseko to have far more English language information than other resorts, making the resort instantly more attractive to the global market.

A main attraction is the remarkable snow conditions, but visitors have also found that modern Japan also offers great food in its restaurants and relatively affordable prices. Service standards are also very high and the local population friendly and respectful in their welcome. Japan also has several unique attractions including the hot spring onsen baths found at many resorts and eternally popular karaoke bars for après ski.

It comes as a surprise to many freeriders that much of Japan’s extensive off piste terrain often buried metres deep is off limits as well as off piste and if skied or boarded can result in prosecution and certainly loss of lift ticket. Some resorts, including Niseko do have off piste zones available however.

Another point to be kept in mind is that Japanese snowfall can be unremitting. Photos of snow banks towering above tour buses can only result from periods where snowfall has lasted for weeks when a cycle of dry air sweeping in from across the vast Siberian plains sucks up moisture as it passes out over the Sea of Japan, depositing it all once it hits the mountains.

Japan’s ski areas are also frequently subject to earthquakes and resort facilities and buildings are designed to cope with this. Fukushima, where the nuclear power plant was damaged by the 2011 Tsunami, is a popular ski region where radiation level reports are now posted along side snow conditions.
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Japan: latest snow conditions round-up


JAPAN The season is starting to build in Japan and conditions are turning increasingly wintery as snow depths start to build. The country's best-known resort Niseko (70/150cm) on the northern island of Hokkaido has just passed then season-to-date snowfall figure of two metres (it's had 209cm) and is enjoying its normal pattern of daily powder updates adding 5-15cm more most days now.

At Nozawa Onsen (15/35cm) across the sea to the south, the current depth is much less but regular snowfall is forecast here too pretty much daily for the week ahead.

Summary of forecast snowfall and ski conditions for resorts in Japan. Fresh snow is forecast at 2resorts. Powder is reported at 0 resorts and 0 are reporting good piste conditions.

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Recent Eyeball Snow Reports for Japan

A–A

B–E F–G H–H I–J K–K L–L M–M N–N O–R S–S T–T U–X Y–Z

Ski resorts in Japan from A to A

Bottom Mid Top
Resort Webcam Top
snow depth
top and bottom
Good piste
on-piste
Powder
off-piste
Fresh snow depth
last snow
Fresh snow depth
next 9 days
0–3 | 3–6 | 6–9
snow (cm)
Weather Next 5 days weather forecast.
Freezing level (m)
Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue

(25m — 205m)

snow report yesterday

11 cm
yesterday
3
1
6
partly cloudy
snow showers
cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
Mid station 115 m
0m 0m 400m 650m 100m

(500m — 1200m)

snow report today

6 cm
today
1
16
snow showers
partly cloudy
cloudy
light rain
light snow
Mid station 850 m
350m 400m 600m 1100m 800m

(850m — 1220m)

snow report today

3 cm
today
6
20
5
snow showers
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
light snow
Mid station 1035 m
350m 300m 850m 1400m 850m

(210m — 340m)

snow report today

53 cm
today
7
1
4
snow showers
snow showers
partly cloudy
rain showers
light rain
Mid station 275 m
200m 250m 800m 1200m 700m

(838m — 1200m)

snow report today

66 cm
today
18
14
5
light snow
snow showers
partly cloudy
snow showers
snow showers
Mid station 1019 m
350m 250m 800m 1350m 800m

(510m — 1000m)

snow report today

59 cm
today
19
14
6
light snow
light snow
partly cloudy
rain showers
snow showers
Mid station 755 m
200m 200m 800m 1300m 700m

(720m — 1240m)

snow report today

29 cm
today
18
15
6
light snow
snow showers
partly cloudy
snow showers
snow showers
Mid station 980 m
200m 250m 750m 1300m 750m

(943m — 1650m)

snow report today

7 cm
today
17
15
5
light snow
snow showers
partly cloudy
snow showers
snow showers
Mid station 1296 m
350m 300m 800m 1350m 800m

(535m — 620m)

snow report today

52 cm
today
7
2
clear
clear
cloudy
rain showers
snow showers
Mid station 578 m
150m 150m 650m 1200m 600m

(96m — 369m)

snow report today

69 cm
today
12
16
23
light snow
light snow
light rain
snow showers
light snow
Mid station 232 m
0m 0m 400m 250m 50m

(1350m — 1400m)

snow report 2 days ago

3 cm
2 days ago
1
1
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
Mid station 1375 m
700m 700m 1100m 1550m 1050m

(740m — 1500m)

snow report today

8 cm
today
10
11
3
snow showers
snow showers
partly cloudy
snow showers
snow showers
Mid station 1120 m
400m 450m 900m 1250m 900m

(660m — 1511m)

snow report today

Akakura Kanko webcam
7 cm
today
9
11
3
snow showers
snow showers
partly cloudy
snow showers
snow showers
Mid station 1086 m
400m 450m 900m 1250m 900m

(700m — 1000m)

snow report today

6 cm
today
8
5
2
snow showers
snow showers
partly cloudy
rain showers
snow showers
Mid station 850 m
400m 450m 900m 1250m 900m

(800m — 1050m)

snow report today

10 cm
today
10
10
4
light snow
snow showers
partly cloudy
rain showers
snow showers
Mid station 925 m
500m 300m 750m 1400m 950m

(950m — 1200m)

snow report today

26 cm
today
20
69
31
light snow
light snow
light snow
light snow
snow showers
Mid station 1075 m
0m 0m 450m 950m 500m

(700m — 1280m)

snow report today

98 cm
today
10
31
8
snow showers
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
light snow
Mid station 990 m
200m 250m 800m 1250m 750m

(640m — 1350m)

snow report today

9 cm
today
8
41
13
snow showers
snow showers
light snow
light snow
snow showers
Mid station 995 m
0m 100m 450m 950m 550m
Ani

(537m — 1200m)

snow report today

1 cm
today
16
45
21
light snow
snow showers
light snow
light snow
snow showers
Mid station 868 m
0m 0m 450m 900m 550m

(396m — 921m)

snow report today

1 cm
today
30
39
17
light snow
light snow
light snow
light snow
light snow
Mid station 658 m
0m 0m 600m 850m 500m

(550m — 650m)

snow report 6 days ago

12 cm
6 days ago
1
snow showers
clear
light rain
light rain
light rain
Mid station 600 m
750m 1050m 1350m 1150m 950m

(523m — 1328m)

snow report today

Appi Kogen webcam
6 cm
today
9
46
18
light snow
snow showers
light snow
light snow
snow showers
Mid station 926 m
0m 0m 500m 950m 500m

(300m — 460m)

snow report 5 days ago

14 cm
5 days ago
light rain
rain showers
light rain
rain showers
rain showers
Mid station 380 m
700m 750m 1200m 1050m 950m

(81m — 162m)

snow report 5 days ago

107 cm
5 days ago
1
light rain
rain showers
partly cloudy
rain showers
partly cloudy
Mid station 122 m
400m 450m 950m 1200m 850m

(1140m — 1320m)

snow report today

47 cm
today
7
clear
clear
partly cloudy
snow showers
snow showers
Mid station 1230 m
500m 550m 1200m 1250m 750m

(97m — 221m)

snow report today

3 cm
today
10
26
26
light snow
light snow
light rain
snow showers
light snow
Mid station 159 m
0m 0m 350m 200m 0m

(900m — 1100m)

snow report today

5 cm
today
7
1
clear
clear
partly cloudy
rain showers
partly cloudy
Mid station 1000 m
450m 600m 1150m 1450m 1000m

(450m — 760m)

snow report today

16 cm
today
21
25
4
light snow
light snow
partly cloudy
light rain
light snow
Mid station 605 m
150m 200m 850m 1150m 750m

(550m — 1080m)

snow report today

38 cm
today
1
3
snow showers
clear
light rain
light snow
light snow
Mid station 815 m
800m 900m 1300m 1100m 950m

(1100m — 1600m)

snow report today

Asahidake webcam
6 cm
today
10
43
41
light snow
snow showers
snow showers
snow showers
light snow
Mid station 1350 m
0m 0m 300m 300m 0m

(150m — 650m)

snow report today

34 cm
today
14
1
light snow
light snow
partly cloudy
moderate rain
moderate rain
Mid station 400 m
400m 450m 950m 1150m 850m

(1880m — 2050m)

snow report today

87 cm
today
3
4
4
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
Mid station 1965 m
300m 350m 750m 1450m 950m

(1880m — 2050m)

snow report today

3 cm
today
3
4
4
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
snow showers
partly cloudy
Mid station 1965 m
300m 350m 750m 1450m 950m

(120m — 450m)

snow report today

1 cm
today
16
13
18
light snow
light snow
light rain
light snow
light snow
Mid station 285 m
0m 0m 450m 400m 100m

(120m — 270m)

snow report today

34 cm
today
9
15
23
light snow
light snow
light rain
snow showers
light snow
Mid station 195 m
0m 0m 400m 250m 0m

(425m — 602m)

snow report today

2 cm
today
4
3
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
rain showers
rain showers
Mid station 514 m
200m 300m 950m 1200m 850m

(1050m — 1100m)

clear
clear
rain showers
snow showers
partly cloudy
Mid station 1075 m
900m 1150m 1650m 1200m 1000m

(520m — 1188m)

snow report today

33 cm
today
6
16
4
snow showers
clear
partly cloudy
light rain
snow showers
Mid station 854 m
200m 300m 950m 1200m 850m

(800m — 1350m)

snow report today

21 cm
today
11
35
7
snow showers
snow showers
partly cloudy
clear
light snow
Mid station 1075 m
250m 250m 850m 1350m 850m