Snow is BIG in Japan: Over 90 inches!

Posted By: The Ski Channel on January 21, 2012 9:14 am

The island nation of Japan is well-known for its beautiful snow-covered slopes, providing skiers and snowboarders with an unparalleled mountain experience. The recent snow storms that have been pounding the west coast of North America have led to even more extreme weather conditions across Japan. Over the past week, parts of the country have seen over 90 inches of fresh snowfall! These precipitation levels absolutely smash any previously recorded figures. This is the most snowfall the country has seen since they started keeping records! After hearing about all the fresh snow we gave our friends at a shout to learn more about their fantastic winter conditions.

Sometimes you might hear of ‘freak’ heavy snowfalls in Japan – for example this last week up on the northern island of Hokkaido – but the fact is that here in Japan they are used to getting huge amounts of snow in many areas of mountainous northern Japan every single winter season.

It is not uncommon to get over 1m of snow fall over a period of a day or two, or even one storm bringing 2m of snow before it moves on.  During the month of December 2011, the town very close to a popular ski destination Niseko (Kutchan town) recorded an official snowfall of 349cm.  That might sound a lot in itself, and was certainly a good recent number for an excellent start to the season in Niseko, but the record for December goes to the year of 1969 when Kutchan received an incredible 587cm in December and over 20m during the winter season from November until April.  The fact that it is less than 300m above sea level, and that the resort mountains may well have received 1.5 times that amount makes it all the more amazing.

Other regions of Japan known for guaranteed very heavy include Niigata Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture on the main island of Honshu just to the north west of Tokyo.  The snow depth at the ski resorts around that area currently stand at around 3m with at least 2m of snow piled up by the side of the roads around town.  The town of Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture is just 80 minutes from central Tokyo on the Joetsu Shinkansen bullet train making it – you can literally be on the slopes well within 2 hours of leaving Tokyo.  Famous other resort areas in Niigata and Nagano include Myoko, Hakuba, Shiga Kogen, Nozawa Onsen and all are within hours from Tokyo by either train or car – the Japanese public transport network makes things nice and easy and efficient at the same time.

On the SnowJapanForums, one popular ‘icon’ is a telephone box that is located at the side of the road in the town, at 365m above sea level. 

You can follow updates on that to get an idea of how much snow is falling in that particular region here.

The best thing about all this is that not only does Japan receive almost guaranteed amounts of snow, but the quality is there as well.

Other resources:

Snow depth at resorts in Japan (updated daily)

Full resort listings including individual maps for each resort in Japan

A new unique search application detailing different aspects of ski resorts around Japan