This personal blog contains snow, avalanche and weather data along with weekly commentary that may be useful in planning your Hakuba backcountry outings.

More important than anything else

1. Hakuba Avalanche Bulletin by the Japan Avalanche Network.
2. Understand the Avalanche Danger Scale.
3. Know what the avalanche problem is and how to avoid it.
4. Carry beacon, shovel and probe in the backcountry. Know how to use them.

Other useful info

+ Unofficial Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) for Hakuba
+ Backcountry conditions from Japan Avalanche Network members.
+ Hakuba MountainLife Magazine. Especially the centerfold.
+ Hakuba MountainLife Facebook page

For avalanche courses and backcountry guiding in Hakuba please visit www.mountainlife.jp. For 9 seasons this blog has provided valuable info without a single ad nor any payment. Please support us.

Recent weather data recorded at 6am each day for the preceding 24 hours. Altitude 800m.

Date Cloud Cover Precip type and rate Rain Altitude 6am temp Max temp Min temp 24hr New Snow 24hr New Water Equiv 24hr New Density Storm Total Snow Depth Baro Pressure
20160119 Overcast S < 1cm/hr 1300? -5C 2C -5C 14cm 27mm 127kg/m3 38cm 60cm 903mbar
20160118 Obscured S 2cm/hr ~ 2C 3C 2C 20cm 20mm 99kg/m3 20cm 48cm 909mbar
20160116 Overcast S < 1cm/hr ~ -5C -1C -7C 0cm ~ ~ 0cm 32cm 920mbar
20150114 Overcast S < 1cm/hr ~ -3C 2C -3C 5cm 4mm 76kg/m3 5cm 30cm 915mbar

2016.01.18 Hakuba Backcountry Conditions Weekly Report

The Last Week
Last week over a 2 day period, light snowfall built up 40-60m of light dry storm snow at treeline, depending on where you were in the valley. There really wasn't any significant avalanche events reported, with danger remaining at Moderate most of the time. Really only one thing stands out from the last week, and that was the conditions on a near white out day at Happo. It was empty, and depending on where you skied, it was overhead faceshot deep and dry on meaningful terrain. As one visiting professional guide said: "surreal". Then some wind arrived, along with the expectation for it all to go bad. But it didn't. On the 17th we had a morning of clear cool and calm weather, and Happo (plus other alpine areas) delivered "one of those days". Hope you didn't miss it, as you will seldom get a better combination of ski quality, weather and avalanche conditions.

Right Now
Conditions as at Monday 18th, in the evening. Snowfall started again on the evening of the 17th as a low pressure moved by the SE of Japan. There was 25cm of dense upside down touchy new soft slab below treeline and at treeline and avalanche danger went up. As the low pressure moved NE past Tokyo, it dragged warm air north, and it is now raining to perhaps 1200m? This is of little concern since there is no good skiing at that altitude or below anyway. That warm spike will not last long as temperatures drop late tonight and the first of a few waves of cold snow arrives with a Siberian winter storm.

The Next Week
Significant change. The first intense precip this season from a cold Siberian flow storm arrives, and will remain active for numerous days. Snowfall will continue, sometimes intensely, sometimes light, until Friday. Then the longer term guess includes further periods of heavy snowfall on Sunday 24th and early next week. Valley bottom temperatures will be below zero the whole time, and at treeline between -10 and -15C. There will be wind. Avalanche hazard will go up, along with the risk of injury or death if you do not show patience, humility and a bit of respect for the nature of Nature.

Remember
The coming weather and avalanche conditions somewhat mandates below treeline skiing in the backcountry, and that is currently in a poor state in most areas with plenty of holes, waterways and small vertical features not filled in. The storm snow will eventually fill them to some degree, but before that happens, the storm snow will only hide those hazards from view. I'd be skiing BTL like it was early season, looking for early season hazards.

What has been quite enjoyable about this season is that when it snows, you notice and appreciate it. Not because we need it - sure, we do - but who cares about things you can't change? More so because you can see and feel the snowfall change the landscape with each small addition. Less is more. In a normal season, it snow so much and so often that yet another 50cm of new snow on top of a 400cm base becomes meaningless. The mountain landscape appearance does not change. More is less.

This will be the last weekly Hakuba backcountry update for the next month. Blame winter for being too short, and important mountain experiences too many.

-damian

This map shows surface wind and temperatures. Please visit www.windyty.com for an interactive version.

Seasonal Comparisons