Abanoned chairlift in Gunma

No new snow to report overnight, but the freezing level has dropped and we were still at -2c at 400m elevation when we left Togari Onsen at 7 am this morning. I am used to the drive through to Yuzawa being pretty treacherous, in fact I read somewhere that the small city of Tsunan which we pass through is the snowiest city in the world! Well, today it was dry and brown, a rather depressing reality check of how bad this season really is.

Getting through into Yuzawa was a real shock. The snow seems to be even thinner here than the Iiyama valley, and it appears that Ischiuchi and other low resorts in the area are having to download guests from the upper mountain. Wow. Higher resorts like Kagura and Naeba are apparently fairing better, and we will visit these in the next few weeks.

We chose to ride at Oguna Hotaka today. It spans from 1200m to over 1800m and is mainly north and west aspect faces, meaning the snow cover was pretty impressive. Unfortunately all the off-piste except the very top area needs a lot more snow to bury the undergrowth. This was not really a concern for us today as the mountain was largely bulletproof ice. That wonderful elevation and aspect are no good after rain and cold temperatures.

We explored a couple of abandoned resorts in the area as options for some ski touring. Interestingly one of them has recently had the base buildings removed and a major solar farm installation is in progress. If replacing a previously successful ski resort with solar panels doesn’t highlight the changing climate, I don’t know what does.

The forecast is for snow to start tonight, and snow off and on for most of the next 5 days. There will be a big temperature spike tomorrow that will bring rain to lower resorts, before the situation improves late on Thursday.