Winter 2016/17 is shaping up to be a very good season for Japan, particularly if you’re someone who likes their snow deep, dry and light (and we know you are). Read on to find out why now is the time to lock in a ski trip to the land of the rising sun. You can thank us later!

La Niña = massive snowfalls

Scoring great snow on a ski holiday to Japan is as close as it comes to a safe bet. But with global warming taking its toll on ski slopes around the world, and a less than perfect 2015/16 season, we’re always looking for signs that minimize the risk.

La Niña is that sign. The Japanese weather bureau has recently predicted a 70% chance that the weather event will occur by the end of Autumn, boding extremely well for Japanese ski resorts, which typically benefit in the form of cold temperatures and immense quantities of snow (even more than usual…).

La Nina, Japan

An image from the NOAA shows the global effects of La Niña. Image: NOAA.

To give it all some perspective – the last two times La Niña emerged during a ski season were 2011/12 and 2005/06. Both went down as some of the snowiest Japanese winters in recorded history, with Myoko Kogen (one of Japan’s top powder destinations) recording cumulative snowfalls of more than 23 and 22 metres, respectively. That’s a lot of snow!

Fewer crowds (and Aussies)

Australians love to ski, and Japan has not surprisingly become the international ski destination of choice for the sun-baked nation.

Niseko has been (rather unkindly) referred to as “Kuta on ice” – a not-so-subtle reference to the number of Aussies on the slopes and, of course, the bars. What is not a debate are the numbers. In January 2016, Australians accounted for more than 60% of all bed nights in the popular resort, and as high as 78% the previous January.

Niseko Hirafu Family run

Beginner areas in Niseko Hirafu can get very crowded over Christmas and New Year periods.

The weakening of the Australian dollar over the course of 2016 is expected to see the number of Aussie tourists drop dramatically in winter 2016/17, and word on the grapevine is that some accommodation providers in resorts across Japan are already feeling the pinch.

What does this mean for you? Fewer people on the slopes, the bars, the restaurants and – most importantly – more of the famous Japanese powder snow to go around.

Resort upgrades

Resorts across Japan are beginning to respond to a growing international demand for better services and infrastructure.

Niseko United resorts have announced major upgrades for winter 2016/17, including the addition of a high speed quad in Grand Hirafu and the construction of a new beginner area in Niseko Village.

Niseko Grand Hirafu lift upgrade

An upgrade to Niseko Hirafu’s King Triple (soon to be quad) is expected to increase capacity by 30%. Image: Niseko Grand Hirafu.

Hakuba Valley resorts have overhauled their lift ticketing system,  allowing visitors to travel between any of the 11 resorts on a single lift pass. The move makes Hakuba Valley the largest ski area in Japan – a title previously held by Shiga Kogen.

Lonely Planet’s #1 destination in Asia

Hokkaido has been named Lonely Planet’s “Best in Asia” destination for 2016, and it comes as no surprise. We all know Hokkaido for its world class skiing, with resorts like Niseko United, Kiroro, Rusutsu and Furano high on the list of most serious skiers.

What is easily looked over is that Hokkaido offers so much more than waist-deep powder. In awarding Hokkaido with the accolade, Lonely Planet noted that the island’s phenomenal winters had “blinded visitors to the year-round charms of Japan’s northernmost island: a wild, mountainous landscape that begs exploration on foot, bike or motorbike; alpine villages where you’ll stumble upon hidden onsen; and sumptuous seafood – including crab, sea urchin and scallops – pulled from rich, cold seas.”

Lonely Planet author Simon Richmond sums up the decision nicely in the video below.

This could be the last big winter for some time

Without wanting to sound too alarmist, there’s a good chance this will be the last big winter for some time.

The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology has published a report saying that the “Global Warming Hiatus appears to have ended in 2014 and we expect a start of a reversed decadal-scale phase which may strengthen the global warming impacts”.

“The winter from 2016 through 2017 may be an exception during which it does not get so warm.”

We’re certainly no scientists ourselves, but if you ever needed an additional reason to get to Japan’s ski slopes sooner rather than later, this is most certainly it.

For information or advice on booking a ski holiday in Japan, feel free to email us at contact@skiasia.com.