After arriving on New Years Eve and although it hadn't snowed significantly for several days, it did not take long to find our way into some untracked powder even claiming face shots on day one. After years of exploring out the gates and deep into the backcountry we manage to find the goods and avoid the masses most of the time.
It does seem quiet at the moment. Hirafu may be busy but with everyone moving on from Niseko to Myoko Kogen and Nozawa Onsen on Honshu it seems to have taken the pressure off this area. All good for the faithful who know there is nowhere like Hokkaido for consistency and quality of dry powder snow.
While finding our legs again we stuck to our well known sidecountry haunts in and around Hanazono and the Annupuri bowls for the first couple of days. Immediately obvious was the amount of snow already on the ground this year. Probably more than all of last season and despite some warm temps and a high freeze level the snow was in awesome condition.
We toured into the backcountry yesterday unsure what we would find but came home buzzing, having had runs as good as anything last season. I dug a pit to check the snowpack and although there is a substantial rain layer from several weeks ago about 1200mm down I got no results from a compression test and the avalanche danger is officially low at the moment. Mind you it is absolutely dumping as I look out the window and that can change things quickly.
Always check the local avalanche report and if you are going out the gates make sure you have an avalanche pack and you know how to use the beacon, shovel and probe. "Know before you go" is the message. There are plenty of options to do an Avalanche Canada AST1 course here in Japan or in Australia, AST1 is an entry level avalanche awareness course that gives you a platform for staying safe in the backcountry, which begins as soon as you leave any boundary gate.
Main Range Backcountry