Japan Today

Ski resorts hit by lack of snow; some stores already selling spring clothing


Plum trees blossoming in Kagawa Prefecture, temperatures topping 20 degrees in central Japan, stores selling spring clothing –– sounds like winter is finally over. Yet it is only one week before Christmas.

The recent mild temperatures and lack of snow, abnormal for this time of the year, are causing alarm at dozens of ski resorts and businesses profiting from cold weather across the country, with a vast number of ski resorts still remaining closed, according to Japanese media reports

“We pray for snow everyday,” says Yasuhisa Chigira, a staff at the Marunuma Kogen Ski Resort in Katashima, Gunma Prefecture.

With no significant snowfall this year, the resort was forced to lay down artificial snow, opening the season on Dec 4, two weeks later than last year, Sankei Shimbun reported. As temperatures are not falling below zero –– with a day's high of 8 degrees recorded Dec 15 –– many ski resorts in the area still remain closed, unable to produce the snow artificially.

The snow shortage problem extends even to Hokkaido, the Hokuriku and Tohoku regions, all usually known for heavy snowfall. As of Dec 17, 36 of the 54 major ski resorts throughout Hokkaido still remain closed or have suspended their services for the season. According to officials at Big Holiday, a travel agency organizing winter leisure tours, there have been huge numbers of reservations canceled for December.

The warm temperatures are also affecting the fuel businesses, as less people are buying heating oil in comparison to previous years. “Our revenue has dropped by over 20% compared to the same time last year,” a gas station owner in Niigata City says. ”We need snow, which brings more customers.”

The confusing weather has even prompted some department stores to speed up the displays of spring fashion by several months. The Seibu Ikebukuro department store in Tokyo’s Toshima ward, for example, has reported increased sales of light and colorful clothing –– a selection that in regular years begins in early spring –– in line with current trends among customers, an employee at the store’s women's clothing section said. 

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the mild winter weather is due to the El Nino phenomenon which is at its peak now. El Nino is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific. Temperatures, however, are expected to drop from Friday.

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This is just the start of winter. Weird weather happens. Come February everyone's going to be sick of slogging through slush and having their faces slashed by frigid winds and wishing for this weather to come back.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Western Europe's the same at the moment - by December norms it's currently very mild weather in the UK.

But, I think it's just a late start to the season, that's all. Could be El Nino-related. Give it a week or two and it'll be dumping in the mountains. Even Tokyo this lunchtime seems to be noticeably chillier than it was.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Mountains here in Kyushu got a dusting overnight, but El Niño should mean a warm winter here - and a lot of rain in California! Good news all around. http://snowbrains.com/what-el-nino-means-for-japans-winter/

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Yesterday: spring-like weather. This morning: Snowstorms with thunder and lightning. Not the typical Hokkaido mid-December.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Went for snow early season snowboarding last weekend and what I found literally made me cry. Brown mountains with absolutely no snow. I was so sad. Going to Hakuba 47 tomorrow because supposedly it was snowing today.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I was in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago and they had opened early for the ski season with most mountains getting a good heavy dump of snow two weeks before normal. A little less here, a little more over there. It all balances out.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Garthgoyle: 2011 was a very late start for all the resort in Hakuba. The first 15cm of the season a fall on the 12 Dec that year. Top of Tomi Gondala ( Top of Goryu ) open up on Xmas day and Happone on the 26/12.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

But February is usually the coldest month and we usually get some snow in Kanto the end of February or beginning of March. It's a little too early to say that winter is over since it doesn't start until next Monday.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Agreed that it's too soon to give up on Winter. It might be time to give up if you were going skiing in the next week or so, but there's still a good two to three months of colder temps around the corner.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A warmer winter, no complaint from me. Actually, I like it as I could spend less on heating cost and never mind snow shoveling and/or need to climb to the roof to clear the snow.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

At least it's bearable there. We have 40°C today. That will melt roads never mind snow.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Good news all around

Except for all the people who depend upon the snow for their livelihoods. Resorts bring in a ton of money to local economies and they will be hurting this year because of it. It also trickles down to the young adults and teenagers who count on the seasonal work for income as well. Not to mention all the businesses that support and supply these resort areas too.

What may be good news to some is a curse to others.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Yesterday colored leaves on the mountain, this morning snow. Nobody is brave enough to say the words "global warming".

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Goodlucktoyou: I Think the majority take it (Global warming) has fact and it is part of the norm. But I myself see less people in voicing the objection. They are seen has akin to medieval believers that the world is flat. Or the earth is the centre of the universe.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It happens.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The house is warm and my bike rides are more pleasant due to the temperature uptick. What's not to like? Rage on, El Nino! May go to the beach on New Year's day. In my shorts!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Snow will come and so will the cold. This is very similar to December 2000 when temperatures were summer like right up to December 16th. Come December 17th, temperatures plummeted to 2ºC and we had heavy snow through April. (Yamaguchi/Hiroshima). Japan does tend to have some crazy weather!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Winter is moving, from Dec-Feb to Jan-Mar

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The northern hemisphere HAS had it rough lately when it comes to above-average warmth. Greenland's ice mass has doubled its annual rate of melt since 2003 when compared to all the annual melts during the 20th century.


1 ( +1 / -0 )

No worries, it will be freezing cold soon and people will be slipping and sliding and breaking bones on the nasty slippery stuff.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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