Another 18 inches new, plus 8 more by 1PM. And this time it was snowing down at the base. Someone here is digging out in the parking lot.
Weather deteriorated rapidly. There is a program where they let you ski a restricted area under the village gondola with a guide but it was not running today. Trail map reference: http://www.skijapan.com/attachments/db/sjp/992.pdf
I skied the black run Superstition near the gondola boundary (requires a ~3 minute bootpack) and the top part was consistently waist deep. It became slower going lower down as the pitch decreased, but nonetheless was worth an encore. The wind was howling on the second bootpack, and by the time I got down that time the gondola was closed.
Without the gondola the Niseko Village sector is less than 1,000 vertical with 3 slow chairs, so I joined the considerable lineup for the shuttle bus at the Hilton. I took the first bus which was headed for Annupuri. I knew the weather would be bad there but I also remembered yesterday's tree laps off the lower bubble quad. What I forgot was the traverse into those trees, now flat and under 3 feet of powder. It would take a long time to break trail to the trees, plus the gully runout at the bottom of the trees was no doubt a terrain trap too. All gates were closed for snow stability, and most were inaccessible anyway due to the alpine chairs being closed. I had to stay near/on the trails at Annupuri; any venture into the nearby trees I would soon grind to a halt with skis well buried. At noon I had enough and went in for the same buffet as yesterday.
After lunch I would probably have called it a day if it were not my last day in Niseko. But I took another shuttle bus to the hopefully more sheltered Hirafu side. There was less snow and no wind when I arrived at 2:30 but within half an hour the storm intensified again. Hirafu has a few trails with steeper pitches where I could get in some turns in chopped but still mostly deep snow.
But if I ventured into the trees this was the usual result.
The track(?) behind me.
I stayed near trails so I would have a short slog out if I got stuck.
The Head Jimis are not exactly skinny at 130-110-120. But most of the huge dumps I've experienced have been in California, where the snow is dense and a wide ski will stay near the surface even if the slope is fairly flat. But not here: the skis could easily burrow thigh deep when I hit a too-flat spot. There was some discussion of this at dinner tonight. The most extreme rockered skis, like the K2 Hellbent and Armada ARG, did a much better job of keeping the tips at or near the surface. A pintail design like the Pontoon that also sinks the tail would probably do best in this snow.
At 3:45 I boarded the Ace Lift 3, which normally allows a traverse past the top of the gondola into the Village terrain. But it was total whiteout and the traverse was well buried. So I worked my way back down Hirafu. Fortunately they turned on the night ski lights to improve visibility. A little bit, as here's the Hirafu base around 4:30.
I had a 3rd shuttle bus back to the Village base, finally made it to the lodge about 5:15.
I struggled today to manage 14,500 vertical, probably 9K of intermittent powder. I caught up to that Niseko weekly average snowfall the last two days. This dump is expected to continue another 2 days. It will be interesting to see how soon after it stops that the sidecountry gates and summit hikes can be reopened.
While I've seen a wide range of conditions during my week, it was not a typical week. The norm is consistent moderate snowfalls, not the clear midweek or the massive storm that's happening now. I suspect with the moderate snows the sidecountry stays open as it did yesterday, and the summit also if visibility is reasonable like last Sunday.