Hokkaido: No Snow

We finally got some proper snow these last few days. For the first time this season, the snow plows were out in force and shoveled the snow out of our parking lots and roads.

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That’s more like it.

This season has been very strange, to say the least. It’s been warmer than normal and we haven’t gotten any snow at all for the months of December and January. Normally, it would be dumping snow every day and I would be shoveling snow out of our door step or wading knee-deep into it on my way to the train station.

I haven’t had to do that this year and the end of last year.

While my husband is ecstatically happy (no snow means he doesn’t need to shovel as much or drive through the mess), I am saddened by the whole thing. Hokkaido winter is just not the same without any snow.

I’m sure lots of visitors to Hokkaido are disappointed by the lack of snow. How can you go skiing, let alone snowboarding, if there’s no fresh powder? On the news yesterday, they said that some of the ski mountains remain closed–and might not even open this year–because there’s not enough snow. You have to remember that the smaller, local ski areas don’t generate enough money to own and operate the machines that create man-made snow.

I mean, in Hokkaido, why would you? If you rely on natural snowfall every winter, there would be no point, right?

Also, the lack of snow within Sapporo City has caused some consternation with preparations for next month’s Snow Festival. Luckily, though, different areas of Hokkaido that did get snow are trucking it into the city. I’m glad the festival won’t be canceled as it’s a big draw for visitors. Those giant snow sculptures can still be created and I’m looking forward to seeing them in February.

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Again, it was fortunate that some parts of Hokkaido still got snow to keep the festival going–but I wish it didn’t have to be like this. I wish that the season still had the same consistent snowfall everywhere.

But I guess rarities like this year happen. I think the last time this happened was forty years ago in Hokkaido. A co-worker mentioned that the El Nino that happened in 2019 might have affected the snowfall amounts we were supposed to get for the season. Meanwhile, an article published on the Niseko United website in November predicted less than normal amounts of snow for all of Japan.

If anything, this whole thing has made the problems of climate change appear more imperative. It’s not some imagined and made up situation. I am feeling its impact more fiercely because of this lack of snow. Heavy snowfall every winter in Hokkaido is supposed to be constant. It is as constant as the sun rising and setting. To have a barren winter in Hokkaido is just shocking.

I hope, though, that things will stabilize in February. I still haven’t given up hope. There’s still a chance that winter can be salvaged in the next few weeks.

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