National

Lack of snow in, around Sapporo worries tourism officials, ski resort owners

JIJI

Concerns are growing for tourism in Sapporo due to a serious shortage of snow in Hokkaido this year.

Some ski resorts have yet to open, while organizers of the annual Sapporo Snow Festival are struggling to gather enough snow.

“I’ve never experienced a shortage of snow as serious as this year,” a city official in charge of the festival said. The festival is scheduled to start on Jan. 31.

The cumulative amount of snowfall in central Sapporo as of Friday night stood at some 80 centimeters, around 60 percent of the normal level, according to the Meteorological Agency. On Saturday morning, about 15 centimeters of snow fell, the agency said.

The atmospheric pressure is not typical of winter patterns that cause snowfalls. In addition, recent average temperatures have been some 3 degrees Celsius higher than in normal years, which means the snow melts quickly.

In normal years, 3,000 dump trucks of snow are gathered from locations in and around Sapporo for the festival. This year, however, organizers are having to look further afield as well due to the shortage, city officials said.

As of Saturday morning, two of the city’s six ski resorts were not yet open, and three of the four resorts that were open closed the runs to skiers or limited their use to sledding for children.

Due to a lack of snow, a ski school at a resort at Mount Moiwa decided to hold lessons at another resort. “Such a thing has not happened in the school’s history. It’s an unusual situation,” said a school official.

The agency is forecasting a cold wave over Hokkaido as early as Tuesday. City officials are hoping a large amount of snow will fall over the year-end and New Year holiday period.

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