“In case you were wondering who got all the snow this season, here’s a hint”, wrote the Godfather of Freeskiing Mike Douglas in an Instagram post this week to his 74,000 followers.

“My friend @dave_iles runs the snow safety program @lottearairesort in Japan. According to Dave they received over 22m (70+ feet) of snow this winter, with the majority of that falling between Dec 17 and Feb 24. I’ll let you do the math on that for the daily average, but it’s ?.”

A quick calculation reveals that Mike’s friend Dave has had his snow safety work cut out for him over at Lotte Arai, with an average of roughly 30cm (12″) a day falling during that period. It’s a staggering amount of snow to fall in a single winter, but not totally unexpected for a place that has been voted “Best ski resort in Japan for powder” two years in a row in the Ski Asia Awards.

 

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A post shared by Mike Douglas (@mikedski)

Nonetheless, it’s been a special season – even for one of Japan’s snowiest ski resorts. Pictures of ski patrollers digging out chairlifts have gone viral, and a look at the snowfall numbers across six different ski resorts in Japan revealed that it was likely the country’s heaviest winter in at least a decade.

Dave Iles agrees:

“Our max snowpack was 680cm ish! Cold temperatures resulting in the best year of the 5 I have been here and the best powder skiing of my life”, he writes in an Instagram post on April 9.

 

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A post shared by Dave Iles (@dave_iles)

Whistler local Iles may not have the social media following or number of magazine covers as his friend Mike, but in his 30+ years as a ski area avalanche risk specialist (regarded as one of the best in the business), he’ll have seen his fair share of powder days. So when he refers to “the best powder skiing if his life”, it’s worth taking note – as it appears his friend has done. Will we see Mike Douglas carving up Lotte Arai next season?

Lotte Arai Resort

For those of you keen to visit the resort that has caught the attention of one of the world’s most influencial freeskiers, Lotte Arai resort is in Japan’s Niigata prefecture, and is roughly a 2-hour bullet train ride from Tokyo station on the JR Hokuriku line. Visitors will need to disembark at Joetsu Myoko station and take a 20-minute hour taxi or resort shuttle to get to the resort.

Lotte Arai is a purpose-build resort with a ski area that features five lifts (including a gondola) and 14 marked runs, although it’s better known for its eight avalanche-controlled freeride zones and easily accessible backcountry. 84% of the resort is ungroomed. It will sound small to European and North American readers, but the quality of the snow, terrain and the virtual guarantee of fresh tracks more than make up for its size, which is in the small to medium range for a Japanese resort.

Lotte Arai ski resort

Image: lottehotel.com/arai-resort

It’s also blessed with a plethora of nearby options to discover, including places like Nozawa Onsen, Madarao and Myoko – all world-class powder destinations in their own right.

Interestingly, Lotte Arai was only reopened in 2017 after 11 years in a state of abandonment. In the short time since (and notwithstanding the two recent seasons without international travel), it has become an increasingly sought-after holiday destination for skiers and snowboarders who want their share of the bottomless powder.

With guys like Mike Douglas telling the world just how good it can get, that’s not likely to change.

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