Niseko Snow FallIt’s that time of year again; when the high-altitude resorts like Whistler and Vale are getting big early dumps and our pre-season envy begins in Hokkaido.

But then all of a sudden, Niseko pops up on the radar and goes from having a dusting in the streets to having a 50cm snowbase overnight.

It’s worth noting that the altitude of Hokkaido’s ski resorts is very low when compared to those of Europe, North America and even NZ. So while the higher resorts around the world are getting their big October and November snowfalls, the Hokkaido resorts are still usually very green. Until about now, when it all seems to come at once!

Yotei early snow 2012

First big snowfall on Mt Yotei for the 2012-2013 season

Last season it didn’t really start snowing until the December 2nd. But when it started, it literally didn’t stop for 28 days. Phew, that brings back a lot of driveway digging memories – oh, and some amazing powder days too of course.

To put it in perspective, Grand Hirafu’s bottom lift is just a mere 256m and the highest lift in Hokkaido measures at just 1600m high – that’s one third of the altitude at the bae of Colorado’s highest resort, A-Basin. But the big difference is Hokkaido gets snow down to sea level for at least 4 months a year – and the snow is AMAZING!!!

Let’s take a moment and compare a few stats between Hokkaido and Colorado…

Colorado Hokkaido
Highest ski resorts Arapahoe Basin (base elevation 3286m) Asahidake (base elevation 1100m)
Highest lifts 3978m (Arapahoe Basin) 1600m (Asahidake)
Largest ski resort (one-mountain) Vale (2140ha) Niseko (2191ha)
Annual Snowfalls Wolf Creek in Corolado gets about 11m a season The base area in Niseko gets about 15m a season

So, in a nutshell, the skiing and snowboarding in Hokakaido really does compare with the rest of the world, only, the mountains here aren’t as big – but the snowfalls are bigger 😉

Asahidake powder

Asahidake powder - yep, it's that deep!

Note that the skiable acreage statistic above is controversial. You hear everything from 803 acres to 2800 acres and it depends on how it’s measured. We took the 2191ha as a good number somewhere in the middle (inclusive of the Niseko off-piste).