World Snow Wrap, December 31 – Powder Days in Japan, the US, Canada and Europe as 2021 Goes Out With Bang

December 31st, 2021


Epic powder in Whitewater, BC after 110cms in the past week. @bradstakilo getting amongst it. Photo: Whitewater Ski Resort

Mountainwatch | Reggae Elliss

Wow, New Year’s Eve and the end of 2021 and I expect many of you are happy to see the end of it, but a big Happy New Year from all of us at Mountainwatch to you.

It’s fair to say 2021 is going out in a big way in the Northern Hemisphere with consistent snowfalls seeing out the year in the US and Japan while there were light to moderate falls in the European Alps last weekend. In Canada there has also been some decent falls over the past week, but it has been super cold with daily maximum temps as low as -30c. Let’s check it all out:


JT Holmes, letting them run in Palisades Tahoe after the storm cleared. Photo: Jeff Engerbretson


It has been a massive week across the Western US, with resorts in the Sierras, Cascades and Rockies all receiving good snow falls with big snow totals. The biggest news is the massive totals in California over the past week, where the resorts in Tahoe have had the snowiest December ever with most resorts reporting monthly totals over five metres. The big totals are thanks to two significant storms and it is a big turnaround from the first week of December when the Tahoe resorts delayed openings due to lack of snow!

Mammoth also copped a heap of snow in the last week with 2.5metres in the past seven days, including another 20cms last night. The December total is around four metres, making it one of the snowiest Decembers on record.


Scott Blum ripping it in Mammoth today where conditions were all time. Photo: Andrew Miller

At the peak of the storm winds were hitting 200km/hr across the peaks in the Sierras, which lead to lift and resort closures as patrol and mountain ops dealt with the avalanche danger and snow clearing. When conditions eased and the resorts opened, the conditions were all time. The forecast is for a mainly fine weekend ahead of another storm next week.


Drew Federico relishing the Utah powder in Solitude two days ago. Photo: Solitude Mountain Resort

Other regions across the US have also received plenty of snow over the past week and while the totals were less than the Sierras there are still some impressive totals with Jackson Hole receiving 90cms in the past five days, 45-95cms across the Colorado resorts and 60-75cms in Utah. The forecast is looking good for the Rockies, especially in Utah and Wyoming where seven-day forecasted totals are in the 1-1.5 metre range. It will be a similar story in the Pacific Northwest where Mt Baker could see 1.5 metres from Sunday through to next Wednesday!


While there has been some snow over the past week in both BC and Alberta, it has been very cold with temps and frostbite danger seeing some resorts closed earlier in the week.  Daily maximum temps have been down at -21 in Alberta with Marmot Basin’s Christmas Day high a freezing -31c!!! However, there were some decent snow totals last weekend, Castle Mountain receiving 50cms while Lake Louise and Sunshine had 22cms. That was followed by more snow this week, Castle Mountain claiming the top totals of just over a metre.


Cold, smoke powder in Fernie this week. Skier: @mixed_petroleum
Photo: Steve Reed

Resorts in British Columbia also enjoyed good snowfalls over Christmas, especially the interior resorts, with Fernie receiving 78cms over two days, Whitewater 67cms and Red Mountain 45cms. The cold arctic airmass also saw temperatures plummet across the province with clear skies and temps down to -25.

Another storm is due this weekend with heavy snowfalls at times, Whistler Blackcomb looking good for snow to the village and 88cms in the 7-day forecast. Snow is also forecast further inland, but totals will be more modest, Revelstoke expecting 20cms Sunday through to Tuesday while Lake Louise should see 15cms.


Th eschew in Hirafu, Niseko this morning. Photo: Sea and Summit Media


If you haven’t seen the Niseko edit we posted today, check it out as the past 12 days has turned on some awesome powder with well over a metre of fresh snow in the past two weeks. It’s hard to watch when Japan’s borders are totally closed to foreigners, but it is a god reminder of why Niseko is such a special place.

Furano has also seen some good snowfalls with 85cms in the past two weeks and the Kitanomine zone opened today. The forecast is looking good with cold temps and more snow, Niseko expecting 45cms in the next week while Furano should see 35cms.

Snowfalls have been widespread across Hokkaido, but the snow totals further south in Central Honshu are also very impressive, Hakuba and Myoko receiving 85-100cms in the past five days.


The snowy streets of Akakura Onsen, Myoko on Boxing Day.

“Another powder day” has been the refrain from our Hakuba snow reporter and given the Grasshopper’s latest Japan forecast that will continue with heavy snowfalls and plenty of powder forecast over the next week. The expected totals in Central Honshu are big big, with Myoko set for 125cms in the next six days while Hakuba isn’t far behind with 119cms in the forecast. If only …..


After some good season-starting snowfalls in early December the Alps saw a settled weather pattern last week before a snow-bearing system on the weekend. In Switzerland there were some good snowfalls on the weekend, Engleberg reporting 30cms last weekend while Verbier has had 40cms. In France there has been some snow over the past few days with decent totals reported with many resorts receiving 30cms in the past week, Val d’Isere  reporting 50cms in 24 hours.

It is a similar story in Austria with resorts in the Arlberg seeing 25cms before the weather cleared yesterday.  In Italy it has been mainly fine although there were a few snow showers on the weekend, but just a few centimetres falling.


Val d’Isere yesterday after 50cms in 24 hours. Photo: Val d’Isere

While corona virus cases are rising across Europe, at this stage there are no lockdowns, although there are now a number of restrictions on inter-country travel. France and Germany are closed to UK tourists, which is really being felt by resorts in France where British tourist make up a big percentage of visitors. The forecast across the Alps is for milder, fine weather this weekend ahead of colder temps and snow next week.

Where We’d Like to Be This Week

To be honest, anywhere there is snow and lifts are running. However, given it’s locals only in Japan and there is a metre of snow on the way, we’d pick central Honshu, a few days in Hakuba, then across to Myoko.