This time last week a group of us went up to Niseko in Hokkaido for some snowboarding for four ays. It sounds almost repetitive (eight times on this site) to say that yes, the boarding was fantastic. for two of the four days it snowed light power which meant great smooth runs in deep, deep snow. However, even on the other two days, boarding was still quick and smooth, and of course, nighters in Annupuri went until that last bus, or the last hot wine, whichever came first.
Last year, the most noticeable thing was the increasing number of Australian tourists on the slopes and in the restaurants, whereas this year, at least for the days we went, was the complete lack of local tourists. I’ve never seen Niseko so empty with the exception of really bad weather days (when I’m usually still on the slopes).
I don’t want to draw any conclusions from just one trip, especially before a pay day, but after a national holiday weekend, but I wonder whether overall ski/snowboard numbers are up or down this year. Certainly from 2000, the trend has been down, but this seemed down more than I expected.
Of course, the good side is that there are less people on the slopes, but the bad thing is that in the medium term resorts increase lift and hotel prices, and in the extreme long term, they go bankrupt. The Ozzie arrival is certainly a good thing to keep short term numbers up, but I wonder how that will affect the long term. A couple of older Japanese skiers in the restaurants complained that some local meals had been taken off the menu in favour of foreign fare (that was true), but is that affecting numbers? Hard to believe someone would miss out out of big Hirafu runs because of it, but certainly Niseko has changed over the last 3 years in many ways. More news as I read it.