CHRISTMAS came early for Niseko locals and a handful of lucky visitors when Grand Hirafu decided there was enough snow to allow top to bottom skiing on opening day Saturday.
Often they only open the top half of the mountain because there are still a few too many rocks and plants sticking up through the soft powder on the bottom half of the mountain.
But on Saturday there was a good solid base with a fresh 20-30cm layer of powder all the way to the bottom of Mt Annupuri.
It made for an even better opening day than usual and skiers and boarders were ecstatic, and Sunday backed up with a fresh 30cm+ of snowfall from the previous evening.
To top it off there were four big parties over the weekend to celebrate.
The Apres Bar held another underground pre-offical opening all-you-can-drink party on Friday night (which also doubled as co-owner Nester’s birthday bash), and the newly renovated Jam Bar also held a little-publicised opening celebration.
On Saturday night Kutchan’s famous skate bowl bar the Loaf Lounge hosted its Yama (mountain) Opening party complete with pro-snowboarders, pro-skaters, skate competitions, live music performances and the premier of Hokkaido filmmaker Neil Hartmann’s new snowboard movie Car Danchi 3.
Later in the evening one of Niseko’s most popular Bars Wild Bills kicked open its doors for the season with a party to be remembered… or possibly not remembered by the hundred or more locals who rolled in to celebrate with an all-you-can-drink extravaganza.
Despite the gloomy economic news of late the mood in Niseko is buoyant and everybody is confident it’s going to be another great season.
It’s been a season of early first indicators – early first season snow on Mt Yotei, early first snow in the village, and now a bumper early start to the season.
Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri are all open, as is Rusutsu which is a half hour drive from Niseko.
After a week-long storm that dumped over a metre of snow on the region, there’s now blue skies and possibly a few warmer, snowless days and possibly a bit of rain later in the week.
This should help firm up the base before the inevitable next big dump.
Keep an eye on what the snow is doing at our new Niseko Snow Report and Forecast page – all your Niseko weather information in one place.