Niseko 2018 - Report #2

Niseko 2018 - Report #2


With a 960 low closing down Tokyo airports and a howling southeaster 

keeping all the top lifts and gates closed, it is an inside day today. 

Time to fix gear, rest and prepare for the expected 1m of new snow in 

the next few days.


Except for a couple of warmer days with high freeze levels Niseko, and 

Japan in general, is having a great season. Continual top ups have kept 

everyone at all levels happy and out amongst it. The resorts are skiing 

exceptionally well and there have even been a few bluebird days, 

somewhat a rarity in January.


For the backcountry enthusiast like myself there is always plenty to 

choose from. The only down side being when it hasn't snowed for a couple 

of days and all the guided groups go looking for any remnants of 

untracked and the easily accessible BC spots get overrun. Unfortunately 

the unregulated guiding system here allows inexperienced guides loose in 

the backcountry with novice clients. Poorly conceived skin tracks and 

large groups looking for Nirvana, bombing anything left, can spoil what 

is usually a quiet and respectful pursuit. If you are hiring a guide in 

Japan make sure they have some credentials. There are plenty of good 

operators amongst the choices.


With my BC partner out of action for a couple of days it was a lonely 

old skin track yesterday as I was the only taker on one of the four 

access trails onto Yotei Zan, the local volcano. With a moderate 

avalanche danger, plenty of new snow and variable conditions I didn't 

get to treeline, opting to head down when the storm alarm went off on my 

watch and the visability dropped suddenly as cloud engulfed me. Having 

to cut trail through knee deep snow on my own may also have had 

something to do with it. Some Paul Kelly and Wilco in my ears helped. 

The skiing was okay but the time alone in the forest was awesome. The 

Japanese call it "Shinrin-Yoku" or forest healing.  Japan's version of 

"Life Be In It" for those that can remember Norm.


Understanding weather and forecasts and being able to relate it to your 

location is going to make or break your time in Japan. Strong winds may 

close lifts on one aspect of the mountain while another is all time. 

Incoming fast moving storms can catch you out with equipment and 

transport. High avi danger doesn't necessarily mean don't go - maybe 

lower, low angle slopes are the go. and willy weather 

are two of many sites always on my screen. In Niseko, the avalanche 

report comes out daily at 8.00am care of Nisko Nadare. It also gives 

information on expected lift and gate status. Get a local map, work out 

the orientation to the resort or your BC destination and plan your day. 

Even on a guided day arm yourself with all the relevant information 

rather than relying solely on the guide. A little research will enhance 

your experience.


Dave Herring


Main Range Backcountry

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