After a couple of ‘not so great’ seasons in Niseko, I have recently heard some discussion about whether the amount and quality of snow in Niseko is on the decline. With a lot of major development set to go ahead in Niseko over the next few years this is an important and relevant question, but not a lot of analysis or snowfall statistics was readily available in English.
After some investigation, I was able to find snowfall data for the last 20 years (From 1996 to 2016), from Niseko Grand Hirafu (Tokyu Resort Service), who manage the Mt Annupuri ski resorts.
From a quick glance at the data over the 20 year period, it can be seen that there are natural fluctuations in the amount of snow from year to year, but no apparent downward trend in the snowfall data. Rather a fairly stable trend is evident and possibly even a very slight increase.
El Nino and La Nina are alternating global weather patterns which can also have an effect on annual snow amounts depending on which cycle is in effect on any given year.
It can be seen from the data, that if a very limited data range was selected from the peak in 2012/13 season until 2016, then it could be reasoned that there is a downward trend, but that would be an inaccurate assessment due to the limited data range.
Global warming is a scientifically proven phenomenon but the effects of this don’t seem to be evident in the data. One reason for this could be that ideal snow making conditions are a result of both temperatures and other weather patterns such as moisture content and wind direction. Colder conditions doesn’t necessarily correlate to greater snowfall, and there could even be some argument that small increases in the average winter temperatures could bring more snow at certain times of the year.
With any changes in global weather conditions we would still expect Niseko to compare favourably in both quantity and quality with comparative ski destinations.
While Niseko had lesser snow falls this winter, Sapporo in December had the highest snowfall for 50years. Obviously slight changes and variances in wind and weather movements can have micro-climate effects in the amount of snow in certain areas from year to year, but does not necessary reflect any long term decrease or change in future snow fall amounts.
Important factors for the growth of the Niseko Region
Other than the uniquely plentiful powder snow in the region, external factors such as the Japan Olympics in 2020, the possible winter Olympic bid in 2026, the future bullet train connection between Sapporo & Kutchan, and increases in tourism in general paint a picture of an exciting future for the Niseko area.
The next phase is likely to be growth of the summer ‘green’ season, and investors are already starting to pay attention to this emerging market in their developments. Pure cool spring water, natural onsen’s, unbelievable fruit & vegetables supplying Michelin starred restaurants, river rafting, golf and fishing are all contributing to a growing recognition of Niseko as a summer destination, which will in turn add further fuel and viability to the local rental and real estate markets.