Looking at the current observational, radar, and newest model data that has just come in it appears that a burst of heavier snow showers may impact Niseko around noon a few hours earlier, however I still feel the heaviest snow will begin later this afternoon and continue on and off through the night. The forecast graphic I previously posted covers through 8pm tonight (January 4th), but I do expect more snow overnight. The city of Niseko itself may see up to 4-8cm overnight with the slopes of Niseko Hirafu possibly up to 20cm overnight on the highest north and northwestern facing slopes.
Kiroro appears to be the big winner with snow falling this afternoon through the night and into tomorrow, snow amounts could exceed 30cm by 6pm tomorrow on higher west and northwest facing slopes with 15-25cm being a good bet for the slopes. My main concern is the nature of this snow event being driven by orographic lifting (snow caused when air is forced over the mountains. With events like this, persistent bands can form resulting in snow totals that vary widely from one resort or even run to another based on the slope orientation. Another noteworthy topic is traveling tonight. Although snow removal across Hokkaido is excellent I would personally try to avoid traveling 393 this evening. Gusty winds a sudden bursts of heavy snow have the potential to cause issues.
Rusutsu, in the shadow of Mt Yotei will remain fairly dry today through tomorrow. There may be a few snow showers that result in a quick burst of snow, hence why I noted accumulations of up to 3cm possible today. With some new snow across the area I am sure some of you will be happy to have a powder, but one should take the appropriate precautions as it will be quite windy and cold across all three major ski regions of southwest Hokkaido. The city of Niseko may struggle to reach -5c tomorrow with sustained winds of 10-20km/h (higher gusts) with the highest slopes, around Kiroro and Niseko, exposed to the north possibly experiencing gusts of up to 45km/h.
In the long range I am closely watching a possible major system early next week, currently it appears that a strong low pressure system will move along the eastern coast of Japan bringing strong northwest winds onto Hokkaido and the possibility of heavy snow and strong winds. I would also like to mention that this may impact your travel plans if you have a connecting flight in Tokyo in the Sunday to Tuesday timeframe there may be delays and/or cancellations due to strong winds of up to 100 km/h of the coast. With Tokyo International (Haneda Airport) near the ocean this storm has the potential to cause issues with incoming and outgoing flights.
Paul Carlone, is a meteorologist specializing in the financial, energy, and agricultural sectors. He has consulted or worked with the commodity, agricultural, aerospace, hydrological, and meteorology communities although he also now specializes in forecasting where the Japow will come rolling in.