Reflections – A Look Back At The Empty Powder-filled Season in Niseko

April 21st, 2021
Justin “Grover” Graves followed by his loyal dog, Mr. Winston. This area of the Niseko backcountry is just a short drive from the resort and offers views of the backside of Mt. Niseko-Annupuri and a plethora of peaks to hike and ride.

Mountainwatch |  Photos and Captions Chad Clark

For Chad Clark the past winter in Niseko was something to remember, a once-in-a-lifetime experience where it was like going back in time, the lack of international visitors and minimal domestic tourists making it feel more like 1999. It was also an above average year for snow across Hokkaido, consistent snowfalls through December, January and February delivering some amazing powder days with untracked runs all day thanks to the lack of crowds.

However, the season was a two-edged sword, perfect snow and untracked powder all day, but the lack of visitors delivered a huge hit to the local economy. Chad filmed and produced the Niseko video snow reports for Mountainwatch this year and while he and his friends enjoyed weeks of empty untracked powder his filming and marketing business, Sea and Summit Media, like all local businesses, suffered a significant downturn.

“The empty powder filled slopes have been great,” Chad said. “But we’re in desperate need of the return of visitors by next season for many businesses and individuals to survive financially.”

Hopefully the pandemic will ease enough to allow international travel to open again and tourists will return. In the meantime, Chad put together some his favourite photos from the past winter, which will give you a taste of what you can expect next time you head to Hokkaido.

Check out more of Chad’s work at and the unique Hokkaido experiences he delivers at  


It was a December to remember and the early season conditions were as good as they’ve been in several years. Perfect for popping pillows in the resort and getting our legs in powder shape for the season. Skier: James Winfield.


A typical resort scene in Hokkaido this past winter. Location: Rusutsu Resort


Floating on a cloud on possibly the deepest day of the year. Rider: Henry Johnson


A brief break from snow and clouds reveals the epic landscape of Asahidake. This image was shot during one of our Central Hokkaido photo tours. The weather forecast called for light snow with intermittent periods of sun. The weather changes by the minute up there. Our group decided to make the trek and see what we could find. We got lucky and were treated to a few moments like this to capture some moody visuals.


I was one of the first people to make the short hike to the peak of the Niseko United resort on this particular day. In a typical season, these slopes would have heaps of tracks before I could get to the peak and pull out my camera. It was a dream season as a photographer in Hokkaido this winter.


Ringing in the New Year, Niseko style. The sun poked through the clouds for only one run on New Year’s Eve. We raced to this spot and got lucky with the timing and the deep, blower conditions. Skier: James Winfield


Ghosting between turns. Same run as above.


The name of this cabin says it all. It’s located at the end of my street and I could see the snow piled up on the roof as I passed each day. I decided to grab my camera and climb the snow bank for a better look. In Niseko, it’s a marshmallow world in the winter.


The famous Hokkaido trees are a favourite amongst resident riders. The snow can stay cold and fresh for days after a storm. Luckily, the storms didn’t stop for more than a day or two during the prime winter months this season. Rider: Evan Wilcox


Mitch Davey beneath a massive, mid-season Hokkaido mushroom. Location: Rusutsu Resort.


Niseko nights. The first night ski of the season last December. Riding pow under the lights is one of the best things Niseko has to offer. Skier: James Winfield


Mt. Yotei-zan, or simply, Yotei. This is the view from the peak of Niseko United, drawing visitors from all over the world to Niseko’s snow-covered slopes. Often shrouded in clouds for days at a time, when the forecast calls for clear skies, take advantage and enjoy. You may not get another glimpse during your entire trip