There’s been a lot hype around this ski season, and it’s hardly a surprise. Tourists were locked out of Japan for the better part of three years, and have endured the frustration of watching two epic seasons unfold with no access.

Now, with borders open and a La Niña forecast teasing everyone with the prospect of another big winter, only one question remains: how good will it actually be?

After a slow start, Japan’s ever-reliable winter has clicked into gear in a number of places, with big snowfalls beginning to hammer resorts and powder-starved skiers earning the rewards of a long, long wait. However, there have also been some early season losers. Let’s look at how things are playing out at some of the better-known resorts.


It’s business as usual in Niseko, with a return to the epic conditions the resort is known for – the best of it coming over the last four days, with more than 80cm falling. Monday morning’s report from local reporter 360niseko referred to a “mind blowing morning with a heroic dump overnight and F F F F freezing conditions”.

Total accumulation for the season now sits at 297cm, with a solid 165cm base at the peak and 90cm at the bottom station. Coverage is good, and most of the resort’s main lifts are spinning (real-time lift status here).

Report: 360Niseko


Better yet, things don’t appear to be slowing down any time soon, with plenty in the forecast over the next week, including heavy snow on Thursday evening. It’s looking like it’s going to be a very white Christmas in Niseko … just for a change!

Niseko forecast



“34 cm recorded this morning.. It keeps coming”, was the remark from local snow reporter Rusutsu 20-20 this morning.

The Hokkaido resort is looking like the early season winner for 22/23, with 368cm of accumulation so far, and an astonishing 169cm coming in just the last six days. Conditions on the mountain are about as good it gets for December, with excellent coverage and powder on offer all over the resort.

Lifts are open across all three of the resort’s main peaks – Isola, East Mountain and West Mountain. Real-time left status can be found here.

Report: Rusutsu 20-20


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Is looks as though Rusutsu’s dream run of six 20cm+ days is about to end, however it won’t be for long, with heavy snowfall in the forecast for Thursday and Saturday evenings, continuing with light snow through Christmas day. Can it hit the five metre mark by New Year’s Eve? We shall see…

Rusutsu forecast



Furano’s snowfall has been lighter than some of its Hokkaido counterparts, however this is not unusual for a resort located in central Hokkaido, where the conditions tend to be dryer but the snow quality top notch. Snowfall has been relatively consistent through the month, with 195cm recorded so far. However, an unseasonably dry November put the resort on the back foot, and there are big areas still closed to skiers.

The Furano Zone is currently open, with the Prince Romance Lift, Downhill Romance chair #2 and Furano Ropeway all in operation. Disappointingly for early season guests, Kitanomine has not yet opened, however it “must be close now”, according to Snow Japan’s Furano Now report. Keep an eye on the real-time lift status here.

Report: Furano Now


Locals and visitors will be hoping that snowfalls today and a forecasted heavy dump on Thursday evening will be enough to get Kitanomine open.

Furano forecast



It’s been a slow start to the Hakuba season this year, with very little snow until the middle of the month. However, the last seven days have yielded 93cm according to the Hakuba Now report, and resorts in the valley have been opening more and more terrain day by day.

Hakuba 47 might be the pick of the lot, with all lifts now operational and only tree riding zones closed. Happo-One also has plenty on offer, with most of the lifts open and the ability for skiers to ride top to bottom – though windy conditions are causing some problems up high.

To check out real-time lift status and snow depths across all Hakuba Valley resorts, visit this page.

Report: Hakuba Now

Forecast (Happo-One)

The back end of this week looks truly epic for Hakuba, with cold temperatures and some very big snowfalls on the cards for Thursday and Friday night. Hakuba is not yet running at full capacity, but by the weekend that should have well and truly changed. Time to wax the skis.

Hakuba forecast


Nozawa Onsen

You really have to feel for the businesses in Nozawa Onsen, who have waited almost three years to welcome international visitors back to the resort, only to be faced with one of the worst starts to the winter season in years. The resort has recorded just 11cm at village level in December so far, a far cry from the 272cm and 290cm Decembers of the last two seasons.

On the bright side, the resort recorded its first “major” snowfall of the season this morning, with guests waking up to 8cm of fresh snow and a much more wintry looking village. “There is something reassuring about the whiteness”, remarked the Nozawa Onsen Now forecast this morning.

Up top, things are more positive, with several runs open at higher elevations (including beginner paradise, Uenotaira), and a number of lifts open. The resort is reporting a 45cm base at Uenotaira. Skiers are currently required to download on the gondola. Lift status available here.

Nozawa Onsen lift status

Only top runs are currently open at Nozawa Onsen

Report: Nozawa Onsen Now


Fingers crossed! Nozawa Onsen locals will be banking on some decent snowfalls hitting the resort at the tail end of this week, with the hope that Santa can deliver the goods in time for Christmas. But will it be enough to open any of the lower runs?

Nozawa Onsen forecast



Much like its north eastern neighbour Nozawa Onsen, Madarao’s early season conditions have been dire. The resort managed to open for the first time on Sunday, but with only one lift (No. 1 Lift) and one run (Paradise) open to the public, it’s not what everyone was hoping for.

At base level, the Madarao has seen 30cm recorded this season, with the largest single day a whopping six centimetres. For comparison, at the same time in 2020 (the first of two epic ‘ghost seasons’), it had recorded 169cm.

If there’s a positive to take out of all this, it’s that the Madapow tap will turn on at some point, it’s simply a question of when. Even during the “disappointing” 2018/19 season, the resort recorded more than six metres of cumulative snowfall, a figure that many resorts around the world would be delighted by.

Report: Madarao Now


There’s some snow in the forecast at the end of this week, including heavy snow for Friday evening, but will it be enough to see the resort open more runs by Christmas? It’s the question on everyone’s mind.

Madarao forecast


Lotte Arai

Lotte Arai recorded more than 22 metres of snow last season, which was enough to catch the attention of free skiing legend Mike Douglas. Despite a slow start to nearby resort areas like Madarao and Nozawa Onsen, Arai’s season is now underway, with 204cm of accumulation and a snow depth of 161cm at Zendana Station.

With 18cm in the last 24 hours, Arai has today opened Kokenashi Lift, which leaves only the lower-down Sanroku lifts out of operation.

Early season visitors should note, however, that Happy Place is the only one of the resort’s famous 10 freeriding zones that is currently open. There are also a number of runs still closed. For real-time lift info, visit the Lotte Arai website.


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The next couple of days at Arai are looking a little light, with the potential for some light rain on Wednesday and Thursday. However, things get serious in the back end of the week, with a huge dump of snow in the forecast for Friday evening and light to moderate snowfall continuing through the weekend.

Lotte Arai forecast



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