Snow Report 24 December 2012 - Japan and France


Hakuba 19 December [Source: Happo FB page]
It snowed in both Niigata and Nagano through Thursday, persisting around Hakuba on Friday.

Rain and mild temperatures hit some areas on Saturday, before the colder temperatures returned on Sunday night into Monday. Parts of Niigata were reporting up to half a metre of new snow on Christmas Eve!


It began snowing around Hakuba on Thursday (20cms up high) with a repeat on Friday. After clearing a little at the weekend, heavy snow returned to Hakuba on Sunday night:

Happo One: 160/60cms

Happo Tree Run Area [Source: Happo FB page]
It seems Hakuba is finally making some concessions to the demands of overseas skiers (especially Australians) keen to explore more off-piste.

Other ski areas around Japan already have adopted a more relaxed approach to tree runs and sidecountry. The photo alongside shows the (new?) tree run area at Happo.


At Myokokogen it returned to snowy conditions on Thursday as the first week of the season kicked off. 
Unfortunately, rain returned again on Saturday, but by Sunday a winter storm had arrived and the temperatures got much colder:
Akakura Onsen ski area - 140cms

Nearby Nozawa Onsen has been transformed with a healthy base for so early in the season:

Nozawa Onsen ski area - 200/60cms

Around and about the Echigo-Yuzawa area of Niigata, including Kagura and Naeba, there was snow on Thursday (10-30cms), but it became mild and even a little bit rainy on Saturday.

Fortunately this changed back to snow on Sunday morning and it began dumping overnight and into Monday:

Naeba ski area - 90cms
Kagura ski area- 200cms


Zao Onsen - no snow, but no rain either! Zao only managed sprinklings of snow through the weekend to refresh the slopes:

Zao Onsen - 70/40cms


Orelle 21 December [Source: 3Vallees FB page]
The Northern Alps, well parts of them, scored the most snow in the past week, with the Southern and Pyrenees missing out. However, good starts to the season across France have delivered a fantastic white Christmas!


At Espace Killy, which includes Tignes and Val D'Isere, there is 240cms of snow at 2500m altitude, and 123cms on the ground at the beautiful Val D'Isere village (1850m).

Les Arcs:
@1600m - 105cms
@2000m - 137cms

L'Alpe D'Huez 18 December [Source: Alpe D'Huez FB page]
Les Trois Vallees:
@1450m - 100cms
@2300m - 140cms

Les 2 Alpes - no change in snowdepth since last week, but the high altitude areas would have kept the quality:
@1650m - 100cms
@2600m - 140cms


The Southern Alps are certainly doing well, but little new snowfall in the past week. So many sunny days would be pleasant, however!

La Mongie 22 December [Source: Grand Tourmalet FB page]
All lifts and pistes are open at Isola 2000, with 170cms of snow covering its upper slopes, and 120cms at 2000 metres.

L'Espace Lumiere, centred around Val D'Allos:
@1800m - 110cms
@2600m - 180cms


In the Pyrenees a sunny spell has held off much improvement in snow depths, with the sun melting a little snow.

The Grand Tourmalet area now has 80cms of snow at 1800 metres altitude, and 100cms @ 2500m.

@1850m - 100cms
@2400m - 135cms


Snow Report 18 December 2012 - Japan


It has been a frustrating, mixed seven or so days for ski weather in central Honshu. The snow continued to fall early last week in much of the style that we are accustomed to in this part of Japan, and then the skies cleared for a few days of sensational clear-day skiing and riding.

But this weekend the rain has been persistent, niggly, and inescapable as the temperatures warmed.

Happo One 9 December [Source: Happo FB page]
In some cases the rain spoiled the great opening to the season slightly, especially as for some areas this weekend was the opening day.

Most ski areas lost a lot of snow, especially around the base areas and in the villages.

But still, lets keep our spirits up - its still early days with December usually touch-and-go in Japan until the weather really changes at the end of this month.

The weather forecast - thankfully - is for colder temperatures and hopefully some renewed heavy snowfalls this weekend. That would be more like it!


Easy come, easy go, it seems. Hakuba got some great early snowfalls during the early part of last week ... but then the rain pounded the region's ski areas during this past weekend.

Happo One 16 December [Source: Happo FB page]
Although it was only for a short period, the damage was significant after the incredible start to the season.

Happo lost half a metre in the rain, and snow conditions deteriorated significantly.

Check out the change in the two pictures of Happo ... the second showing the rain damage.

Here's looking ahead for better news as we welcome a return to cooler weather:

Happo One: 150/30cms


This past weekend saw Myokokogen open most of its many ski areas, normally a cause for celebration ...

... but then the rain arrived and it cleared the snow from the streets at village level:

Nozawa Onsen 12 December [Source: Nozawa Onsen FB page]
Akakura Onsen ski area - 80/0cms

At Nozawa Onsen the powder that fell in volume earlier in the week settled and then rain on the lower slopes has resulted in a loss of up to half a metre in places.

Still, the snow depths and the great cover around the upper slopes are pretty good for so early in the season:

Nozawa Onsen ski area - 115/20cms

Not too far from the hot springs town of Echigo-Yuzawa, at Kagura and Naeba, there was rain down low but light snowfalls have continued on and off. Not quite the drenching that some areas have received:

Naeba ski area - 90cms
Kagura ski area- 200cms

Zao Onsen 16th December [Source: Zao FB page]

Zao Onsen - the snow continued to fall well into the middle of the week up at Zao, which is several hundred kilometres northeast of Nagano Prefecture and the major Honshu ski areas.

There was light snow almost up until Thursday morning.

But its location didn't save Zao Onsen from the rain that arrived on Sunday, although in smaller amounts than further south:

Zao Onsen - 80/30cms


Snow Report 16 December 2012 - France


France has had a fantastic start to the new snow season, with snow depths reminiscent of what you might expect in late January already at many ski resorts. During this past week, some midweek snow led into some fine and photogenic conditions.

This weekend the snow is returning again at many areas, making for great powder conditions up high. It should be great for Christmas visitors!

Les Arcs 13th December [Source: Les Arcs FB page]

At Espace Killy, which includes Tignes and Val D'Isere, 76% of the 155 pistes are now open. At Val D'Isere there is 185cms of snow at 2500m altitude, and 90cms on the ground at the beautiful Val D'Isere village (1850m).

Les Arcs has now decided to open a week early, no doubt due to the fantastic abundance of white stuff:
@1600m - 76cms
@2000m - 102cms

Meribel 13th December [Source: 3Vallees FB page]
The huge Les Trois Vallees area of interconnected ski resorts has a massive amount of skiing available for this time of year:
@1450m - 90cms
@2300m - 150cms

Les 2 Alpes:
@1650m - 100cms
@2600m - 140cms


The Southern Alps are certainly doing as well, if not better, than the northern resorts.

All lifts and pistes are open at Isola 2000, with 175cms of snow covering its upper slopes, and 115cms at 2000 metres.

Further west is the fantastic value linked area known as L'Espace Lumiere, centred around Val D'Allos:
@1800m - 140cms
@2600m - 200cms

Cauterets 9th December [Source: Cauterets FB page]

In the Pyrenees a sunny spell has arrived.

The Grand Tourmalet area now has 90cms of snow at 1800 metres altitude, and 110cms @ 2500m.

@1850m - 125cms
@2400m - 150cms


Snow Report 10 December 2012 - Japan


The new season is truly beginning to swing into life as many of the Japanese ski resorts officially opened this weekend. Most of the majors have some lifts running ... while many are digging them out after the massive snowfalls of the past few days!

Good snowfalls last weekend were followed by a mixed week: Nozawa Onsen and the Yuzawa area of Niigata had rain and a little snow during the week, while to the south and north there were better midweek snowfalls (Hakuba, Gifu and Zao).

Happo One 9 December 2012 [Source: Happo Facebook page]
This weekend coincided with a major storm bringing lots of snow. Some areas felt the power early on, while for others the inevitable was just delayed a bit. Happy days now all round!

Happo One (Hakuba)

The Hakuba region has done particularly well since rain turned to snow midweek. On Friday a storm arrived and dumped 30-40cms of new snow ... and the same again the following day and night. By Sunday morning there was 180cms up high at Happo One, to around 70-100cms on the middle slopes, while the base areas at the bottom of the lifts are now white with 20-30cms of cover.

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa strangely missed out on much snow this week and even the storm that hit nearby Hakuba this weekend seemed to pass by rather than dumping snow on the slopes above the onsen town. But on Sunday things started happening as Nozawa Onsen added about 70cms of snow in only 24 hours at Yamabiko, and about 40cms around town and on the lower slopes. Thats the kind of snowfalls Nozawa Onsen is known for as winter kicks in!

Nozawa Onsen 2 December 2012 [Source: Nozawa Facebook page]

Last Sunday 30cms fell at Naeba, followed by a little more snow during the week. This weekend saw lift openings, but not as much snow as expected. Up high there is a massive amount of snow - as much as 2 metres already at the top of the linked Kagura area - and in 24 hours only we have seen more than 80cms fall at the base area at Naeba. Nearby Yuzawa town is suddenly very white and being cleared of snow.

Zao Onsen

Zao held its traditional opening ceremony on Saturday 8th December in the midst of a snowstorm! The middle slopes and lifts are operating this weekend, with more set to follow. While there were a few small snowfalls during the week, Saturday was the start of the main event and by Sunday morning there was another foot of snow. Zao now has 60cms up high and 30cms at the base.


Snow Report 2 December 2012 - France & Japan

Its that time again - so, WELCOME to Season 2012-2013! May the festive season bring massive dumps of powder for everyone, whether they be skiing or riding in Europe or Japan.

The last week has brought good snowfalls to both these parts of the world, so lets see how a few of the key mountains in Japan and France fared in their preparations for opening ...


Snowfalls in the past week have painted the mountain tops white, and even helped some resorts begin lift operations. Many of the ski resorts in the central part of Japan have half a metre of snow above about 1,000 metres, but the base areas - being quite close to sea-level - at most have a sprinkling.

As we move through the first few weeks of December, the ski resorts on Honshu will progressively open up (snow permitting of course!).

Happo Upper Slopes 30 November [Source: Happo Website]
Happo One (Hakuba)

Happo One, the most extensive of the ski stations in the Hakuba area of Nagano Prefecture, opened in late November this year.

There is now 50cms on the upper slopes. Happo is OPEN for limited skiing and riding!

Nozawa Onsen

Just across a few valleys in the southern part of Niigata, the beautiful village of Nozawa Onsen welcomed 60cms of snow falling on its upper slopes.

The Yamabiko area at the very top of the resort is known for its deep powder tree runs. However, there is little snow at the base and in the village ... yet!

Akakura Onsen (Myoko Kogen)

Still in Niigata Prefecture - but back towards Hakuba - is Myoko Kogen, possibly one of the snowiest ski areas in Japan.

Despite this top billing, and some snow after falls this week, there are no lifts open yet at the various ski areas that cluster around the base of Mount Myoko.

Zao Middle Slopes 30 November [Source: Zao Website]

This area has special interest this season as I will be reporting from Myoko after a trip there next month. Something to look forward to!


The massive linked resorts of Naeba, Tashiro and Kagura are around two hours on a shinkansen from Tokyo. Little snow at the bottom yet - but already there is lots of snow cover at the top of both Naeba and Kagura ski areas.

Zao Onsen

Much further northeast in Yamagata Prefecture is Zao Onsen. Zao currently has limited skiing on several runs with full opening scheduled for the weekend of 8 December.


Some good snowfalls across parts of France have helped preparations for December openings. Early news follows from a selection of ski resorts in the different areas of France.

Northern Alps

About one quarter to a third of the huge Espace Killy is already open as of this weekend, centred around Val D'Isere (50cms snowdepth up high to around 30cms at the base).

Other opening areas include the higher altitude ski stations like Les Deux Alpes (90-40cms) and Alpe D'Huez (120-48cms).

Other openings are planned as follows:
Serre Chevalier, Chamonix, Isola 2000, and Trois Vallees/Courchevel (79-29cms) - 8 December
Les Arcs - 15 December

Isola 2000 1 December [Source: Isola 2000 Webcam]
Southern Alps

Magnificent Isola 2000, perched high above the Mediterranean Sea in the Southern Alps, already has 100cms of snow covering its upper slopes, and 80cms at 2000 metres. Isola 2000 will open on 8 December 2012.


The Grand Tourmalet area is the largest connected ski area in the French Pyrenees. About 40cms of snow fell this week at 1800 metres altitude - the Grand Tourmalet ski stations plan to open on 6 December 2012.