WHILE the boom in international visitors taking skiing trips to Japan shows no sign of abating, the 08/09 season has seen many visitors venture beyond Niseko for their Japanese ski experience. Many, however, will have been reminded that in terms of snowfall, there is only one Niseko. It’s a little ironic that the past two seasons have seen Niseko experience unprecedented growth in its economy and international visitor numbers, while at the same time the snowfall has been well below the annual average. Deep Powder Tours were the first foreign tour operator to bring large volumes of international tourists to Niseko, run tours all over Japan, so they keep a close eye on snowfalls across the country. They rounded up some statistics and found that at the time of going to print, the stats don’t lie, Niseko was head and shoulders above the rest of the country. Niseko’s peak base was 315cm, compared to Hokkaido’s other main resorts Rusutsu (145cm), Furano (105cm), and Tomamu (100cm). Honshu’s resorts were a mixed bag, with perennial favourite Hakuba leading the way with a 205cm base, followed by Nozawa Onsen (195cm), Shiga Kogen (165cm), and Myoko Kogen (140cm).
DPT co-founder Glenn Goulding gave us his run-down on Niseko’s snowfall. “We have had more snow here than anywhere else this season, which is a return to the norm,” he says. “We’ve had two below average years here; normally it just snows and snows. Although more international visitors are venturing to other resorts, Niseko is still my favourite – the snow is the best and you’ve got the village, the best après ski in Japan and a good mountain where you can do backcountry as well.” So, is Glenn worried about the future of international visitors to Japan’s ski resorts? “Apart from the strength of the Japanese yen at the moment, the future of Japanese skiing is great, it’s starting to become really popular all over the world.”