After bumper snowfall in November, Niseko is in the midst of a massive powder dump. Over 80 cm of snowfall has been recorded in the last 3 days, 30 cm of it in the last 24 hours.
According to daily snow reports from 360Niseko.com, we are sitting on 464 cm of cumulative snowfall for the season – beating last year’s 273 cm on this day last year. In fact a warm and sunny winter start last year had brought us just over 3 metres of cumulative snowfall by the end of December – a number we beat two weeks into the month this time around.
A massive November had no small part to play: JMA (Japan Meteorology Agency) records show that November has received the highest snowfall for any November since 2002, before that 1998, then 1985.
Long-term local residents are calling it a once-in-a-decade season.
The Fabled 14 Metres
Niseko is said to average 14 metres of snowfall in a season. Weaker snowfall in the past two years has brought our five year average closer to 12 metres, with two seasons just above, and two below that line.
The last season to reach and beat the 14 metre snowfall mark was the winter of 2012-13, with a season total of over 15 metres. Compared to that, the 2016-17 season brought lots of sunshine and warm weather, and a season total of just over 7 metres.
Despite the low number in Niseko even “lesser” snow years have solid powder days and soft dry snow to boast. Last year’s sunshine meant lots of blue sky skiing and great visibility after each dump, while this year’s heavy snowfall, low visibility and chilly winds mean even the piste is not for the faint of heart. In the end, snow news is good news, and at this pace it could be a snow season for the record books this year.
This past weekend’s massive snowfall is expected to slow today, with small dustings continuing throughout the week. The icy Siberian winds that bring Niseko’s powder will give way to warmer southerly currents by the weekend, and we can expect warmer weather (around 0 degrees Celcius) on Sunday.
Snow Forecast Resources
These statistics are sourced from historical snow report data at 360Niseko.com. 360Niseko.com records snowfall outside their base each morning, using a vertical-standing metal ruler. In 2012-13 season they were based in Lower Hirafu Village at 270 metres elevation. From the 2016-17 season onwards they have relocated to Higashiyama, and record data from 200 metres elevation. The four Niseko resorts themselves are higher, at 300-1,000 m elevation.
360Niseko.com stops regular snow reporting in April and does not compile sesaon totals, so we have taken the last report of each season as the cumulative season statistic, and marked the stats with this finishing date. 2012-13 was tracked until May, while other seasons end in early April – some snowfall still continues until May in Niseko.