The brand new Grand Hirafu high-speed gondola is now officially running. The opening ceremony took place this morning at 10am in between the gondola and the new Mountain Center. The line-up to be the first to ride the new gondola is the longest cue we have seen so far this season, and with the opening it truly feels as if the winter season of 2011-12 has begun. The new Grand Hirafu gondola can seat 8 people and can zip skiers and riders to the top of the mountain in 5 minutes, travelling at speeds of up to 6 meters/sec. The old gondola could only seat 4 people and took 8 minutes or longer to get to the top of the mountain. It is a beautiful day to ring in the official opening of Grand Hirafu; the sun is shining, we have received over 60cms of new snow this week alone, and almost 2 meters of snow has fallen so far since the beginning of December. And what does next week look like according to the long-term weather forecast? Snow all week with temperatures hovering around -5 °C in Hirafu Village, and temperatures around -10°C at the top of the mountain.