November 7, 2020

The snow forecast for Hokkaido Nagano! 2020–2021 will be better than last season!

The Japan Meteorological Agency has announced that there might be less snowfall with warmer temperatures than usual in Hokkaido while Nigata and Nagano may see more snowfall and cooler temperatures this coming 2020–2021 winter season.

Here is a brief summary of what was covered in the snow forecast!

Forecast from the Japan Meteorological Agency

The Japan Meteorological Agency has already announced the weather forecast for the coming 2020–2021 winter season.

We apologize that the image below is in Japanese, but will briefly translate what it says.

image of the of the weather trends of the winter 2020-2021, from December to March by the Japan Meterological Agency
Image from Japan Meteorological Agency
  • Due to global warming, the coming winter season has a high chance of higher temperature than usual worldwide.
  • The La Niña weather pattern has a high chance of continuing through the winter, which typically results in a higher likelihood of cumulonimbus formation in South East Asia.
  • This will result in more westerlies blowing north than usual, but south in Japan.
  • The Siberian High, which brings quality powder snow to Japan, will be flowing more to the south west of Japan than usual, resulting in a colder and more snowy winter along the Japan Sea coastline, especially the Hokuriku Region. Ski areas in Niigata or Nagano will enjoy more snow than usual.
  • Hokkaido will be dominated by low air pressure, resulting in less snow and higher temperatures than usual.
image of the snowforecast of 2020-2021 winter by the Japan Meterological Agency
Image from Japan Meteorological Agency

This map shows how the temperatures will look this coming December–February.

White areas will experience the same temperatures as usual while yellow areas show a higher chance that the region will be warmer than usual and blue areas show a higher chance that the region will be cooler than usual.

How will it be compared to the record low snowfall of the 2019–2020 season?

Last year, we had record low snowfall compared to usual.

Hokkaido had good powder snow without too many issues in major ski areas like Niseko, Kiroro, and Furano while many others couldn't even open their resorts due to lack of snow in the mainland areas.

Hokkaido also had a shorter peak period, making January and February the only great months for winter sports.

"Neyuki"

When I was working at a front desk in the Niseko area, I came across people who didn't know what "neyuki" is.

Neyuki is when there is a layer of hardened snow on the ground.

Until this layer is formed, you won't be able to enjoy snowsports.

We had so many people complaining (especially from the warmer-climate countries in Asia) about how they weren't able to start enjoying winter sports even when it was snowing.

Well, the problem was that the snow was too soft and it needed to harden up enough and create a layer on the ground.

Imagine making a snowball.

If you try to scoop some snow into a ball and throw it, it'll just be blown apart by the wind before it even reaches its intended target.

So you need to press it down, compact it and solidify it so that it actually remains in tact.

The same thing has to be done with the layers of snow before you can start enjoying winter sports.

Some time is required for the snow to harden up by melting and freezing during the warmer day and colder night and ski resorts also use machines to tread down the snow to help it along a little.

This will create a layer of snow, which we call "neyuki" (根雪).

Record less snowfall last season

While it started to snow on 14th November in Sapporo for example last year during the 2019–2020 season, neyuki finished forming on 20th December, 15 days later than the average.

Somewhere in between last year and the usual winter

Looking at the data provided by the Meteorological Agency, the date of the first snowfall this year came one week later than usual, but three days earlier than last year.

The first frost date and the appearance of snow worms, which are a supposed predictor of snowfall, are showing that while it might be a warmer than usual season, it should be a better season than last year! (Fingers crossed...!)

We will give another snow report once it's updated

Although the Meteorological Agency reports are fairly accurate, winter weather conditions may also fluctuate due to multiple other factors.

Updated forecasts are usually released every month so we will make another update once they're available!

*As of 12th Dec, this is the list of all the resorts that have opened.

Ski Resorts in Hokkaido

Ski Resorts in Nagano

Here are the latest snow forecast summaries!

Snowjapan.com may come in handy to check for observed snowfall information in English during the season.

We've also gone for a ride at Sapporo Kokusai!

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