Niseko, Japan, Jan. 25-26, 2011

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Niseko, Japan, Jan. 25-26, 2011

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Jan 26, 2011 4:26 am

I've been on my own these 2 days at Niseko. It is perversely not snowing at night. It snowed starting late morning Tuesday, with strong wind after lunch. The wind was from the east, not from the Sea of Japan where it would bring more snow. There are 4 base areas moving from south to east, Annupuri, Niseko Village (Black Diamond Lodge is about 1/4 mile away), the largest Grand Hirafu and Hanazono. The summit and the alpine singles were socked in all day. Nonetheless you must ride them to get to or from Annupuri as there is a deep Off Limits canyon separating it from Niseko Village. Trail map reference:

I spent the morning exploring Annupuri. The main fall line faces directly south, so a few open and steeper pitches had crust from the previous day's sun. With enough SE or SW tilt or tree cover the snow remains packed powder. There are 2 gates along the south area boundary and I took 2 runs through the lower gate into these trees.

The open area at right had some sun effect but the trees at left were good. The snow was not nearly as deep as the other side we skied Sunday but it was also less tracked.

At 1:30 I crossed west to east in the teeth of that wind and went into lunch at the King Bell Hut near the top of the Hirafu gondola. After lunch I made 2 runs into the Hanazono sidecountry we had skied Sunday but without the hike. It was adventurous enough in the whiteout above tree line, and I would not have gone out there at all if I hadn't been there before. First time I dropped into the trees fairly soon and ended up skier's left of the highest Hanazono chair, barely visible at distance.

Second time I went farther out and ended up in deeper snow but also at the 5+ minute cat road hike from the first summit run Sunday. After another alpine traverse with the wind behind me I skied back to the Niseko Village base. 20,900, 4K of powder.

Wednesday's weather was better, fog only up high and not much wind, but no snow either. With Tuesday's strong east-to-west wind I figured correctly that some snow may have blown into the Annupuri sidecountry. I first went in the same gate as Tuesday and saw this view above me.

I realized these people must have come from the gate at the top of Annupuri's alpine single, so I headed up there. The summit can be climbed from there, but everyone was bootpacking just 5 minutes, then traversing into this bowl.

Lots of options where to ski in the bowl.


It's close to south facing but high, so the snow was heavy but easy to find a smooth untracked line. I knew it woiuld be more chewed up as it funneled down so I traversed out to the ridge at right. Looking back up from there as the sky cleared some.

And across to the trees I had skied from the lower gate.

Boarders gathered below me on the ridge.

Dropping right from the ridge led to some nice untracked turns.

I have to agree with rfarren that these trees lower down were more like Utah's.

I repeated this bootpack, traverse, bowl, ridge and tree circuit once more before lunch.

After lunch I saw this menagerie of snowboarders.

I presume the costumes are in honor of Australia's national holiday today in view of what I've seen people wearing at Mammoth on July 4.

I finished up with a couple of runs in the Grand Hirafu area. Here's a large thermometer and night skiing lights with a clear view of 6,400 foot Mt. Yotei beyond.

Overview of some Grand Hirafu terrain near the Ace Quad lift.

I finished with 21,200, 4K of powder. Now that I've been around some, the topography reminds me most of Mt. Bachelor among North American areas. Both are volcanic cones with decent fall lines for powder but very little 40+ degree steeps. Bachelor's alpine summit is taller, but Niseko's flanks on either side are much more expansive.
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
Posts: 9931
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Re: Niseko, Japan, Jan. 25-26, 2011

Postby kytels » Thu Jan 27, 2011 2:16 am

Love the giant thermometer.

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