Niseko, JP: Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

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Niseko, JP: Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Sun Jul 12, 2020 4:22 pm

Niseko

Wanted to post some information about skiing Japan - I absolutely loved it! Likely there is no better place to consistently ski powder in January and February. Forget Alta-Snowbird, Jackson, Mt Baker, Whistler, etc.

The snow comes down in waves of moisture (4-16' increments almost daily), low-moisture cold snow. It snowed everyday ... and it snowed again.

I will try to organize this post by topics, descriptions and photos (mostly because of the site).

Trip

Boys trip from all over the USA (Telluride, Crested Butte, Denver, SF, Boston). Coordinating that is a bit of a nightmare - brother got stuck with that. It could have been larger group of guys - but we had one house, one guide, one snow cat .... so it was the first guys who committed.

I took 2 days in Tokyo pre-trip because I had never been. There were so many American men (not really - but we all stuck out) doing Tokyo pre-trip .... likely due to Ja-POW reputation, Epic/MC/Ikon pass .... we were all wearing our American mountain town gear while the Japanese looked awesome/put together/chic.

Guide

We hired a guide for the week - easier than dealing with a bunch of early 40 something men on where to ski. Our guided days were 1 Kiroro, 2 Niseko,1 Rusutsu.

We all brought ski-touring gear - not really necessary at resort lift style skiing in Niseko - but good for Kiroro or Rusutsu.

The guys who have heli-skied before listened to the guide .... others just said f-you....Im going at times.

The guide was pretty awesome - he would pick the group up in a van everyday. Take us to onsens after ski. Showed us some of best cheap sushi and Japanese dining often in Kutchan. Mostly he was dealing with us from 7am -7pm ... Thank god. His season In Japan is mid December to March 1st ... than back to New Zealand .... Niseko powder dries up in March.

House

We found a great house in Niseko. An AirBnB makes it much cheaper. We had a completely awesome pad - onsen, game room, boot dryers, big living space. Think - Chinese money is inflating a lot of costs.

Costs

With that many guys and a house - I paid about $1k for a week of guiding and lodging.

Bad Snow Year 2019-20

Yes - this was the worst snow year for Japan in decades. The north island recovered - Hokkaido. But the resorts on the main island - never really recovered. We had lower snow bases, but the quality was excellent. Never really hit a rock - just doded bamboo lower down. Ski bases were still 100"+. I think season snowfall was around 500-600'.
Last edited by ChrisC on Thu Aug 06, 2020 8:04 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Sun Jul 12, 2020 4:25 pm

Views from breakfast in Tokyo - Mt Fuji

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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Sun Jul 12, 2020 4:47 pm

Our Niseko House for a couple of days

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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:39 am

Thanks. Interesting to see the snow totals for a "mediocre" season there.
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:47 pm

According to Snow Japan Now Niseko had 287 inches snowfall in 2019-20. That's a conservative number since it's measured at the base since 2013. However maximum season base depth mid mountain of 80 inches is the lowest since that site has been active (2003). Average max base depth is 130 inches.

ChrisC wrote:But the resorts on the main island - never really recovered.

The most prominent resort area, Hakuba site of 1998 Olympic alpine events, indeed had a horrendous season with 90 inches snowfall. But Myoko closer to the west coast had more snow than Niseko. Adventure Project TR's from the Tohoku areas in northern Honshu reported comparable powder in the same early February timefame as what ChrisC enjoyed.

If I return to Japan I'll be tempted to channel my inner James and ski Myoko and/or Tohoku.
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Mon Jul 13, 2020 3:56 pm

How to ski Niseko slackcountry....you can see the gates and the terrain. Niseko is very similar to Mt Bachelor - but with better snow.

I personally loved the terrain out of Gates G3, G4 and G5 - that terrain faced mostly NorthWest and had a great combination of open terrain, semi-trees, and trees. I also thought it wind-loaded snowquite well.

The gates out of G1, G2 and G8 are quite good too.

It's a very impressive mountain. Nothing super cliffy - but just a nice low expert pitch for great powder and relatively low avalanche risk.

The hikes to the summit are not too bad 15-20 minutes and at low elevation.
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:18 pm

Our guide would take us to the Hanazono base (15 min) ... instead of Hirafu.... every day. The Hanazono base has a new Hyatt .... and very nice base lodge. Not crowded. Near the best terrain.

Some ski photos from Feb 4 and 5. We generally would take lifts up to the funky single chairs.... and hike or ski out gates.
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby EMSC » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:33 pm

Looks good. Definitely on my radar for a couple years from now for a Japow trip.
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:31 pm

Here's my best snowfall stats for trip.

Again, Japan mostly measures at a base versus mid mountain versus higher up. It must be almost 2x - look how Jackson Hole measures.

Here are my snowfall stats - week and year of 2019/20.

We could not cancel at New Years..... but there were a few waves of snow in weeks 1, 3, 5 of January. And our week was awesome.

You can see the sign is ready for almost 2x ski base.
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Obviously snow bases a bit low
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Mon Jul 13, 2020 6:18 pm

Some of these photos are from February 7th ... very sunny morning out of south gates...than starts dumping snow by 2pm.
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Mon Jul 13, 2020 7:24 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:According to Snow Japan Now Niseko had 287 inches snowfall in 2019-20. That's a conservative number since it's measured at the base since 2013. However maximum season base depth mid mountain of 80 inches is the lowest since that site has been active (2003). Average max base depth is 130 inches.

ChrisC wrote:But the resorts on the main island - never really recovered.

The most prominent resort area, Hakuba site of 1998 Olympic alpine events, indeed had a horrendous season with 90 inches snowfall. But Myoko closer to the west coast had more snow than Niseko. Adventure Project TR's from the Tohoku areas in northern Honshu reported comparable powder in the same early February timefame as what ChrisC enjoyed.

If I return to Japan I'll be tempted to channel my inner James and ski Myoko and/or Tohoku.


I do not believe that 287" figure ..... Im going with 500-600' up on the mountain..... but it might make sense if base snowfall.... and you do 2x
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Jul 14, 2020 2:13 pm

Consensus long term average "up on the mountain snowfall" at Niseko is 550 inches, so there's no way thee was that much in 2019-20. You would not be seeing that bamboo in early February of a normal season, as I did not in late January 2011. I did see some in early January 2016 after a below average December.

A crude estimate for 2019-20 would be 550 x 80 / 130 = 340 inches.

A 2 to 1 ratio is unusual except for low base/big vertical places like Whistler and in the Alps. he other situation is where the base is fa leeward of a mountain crest like Park City.

Those are excellent overview pics marking the Niseko sidecountry.
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:46 pm

Compressed air stations were scattered at a lot of the base lodges for blowing the snow off of yourself before you entered the lodges.
Also, lift attendants were equipped these devices on some lifts - they often paid more attention to blowing snow than bumping a chair.

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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Thu Aug 06, 2020 1:56 pm

The first two Niseko days - February 4th and 5th - we primarily skied the Hanazano and Hirafu sectors and side country/glades:

Official Map
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Skied Sidecountry Areas in Red/Orange
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Focus on Gates G4, G4 with summit hikes, G5 and - to a lesser extent - G9.
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The final Niseko day - February 7th - we skied the Annupuri sector - and the 2 large bowls on skier's right. The first bowl could be directly accessed with without much effort. The larger, taller bowl required a summit hike to maximize its entirety.
The final run was down the backside of Niseko to the Goshiki Onsen.

Official Map
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Skied Sidecountry Areas in Red/Orange - The North Face is essentially not lift served and ends at an Onsen
nisekoannupuriside (2).jpg

nisekonorthface (2).jpg


Focus on Gates G1, G2, G8, G7, G11 .... with one final summit hike via G4
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Re: Niseko - Feb 4, 5 and 7th, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:44 pm

A few photos from Annapuri and Niseko Village runs .... we made it out of each of the gates once including 2 summit hikes:

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