I like inviting you into tales of my adventures, and this particular segment today is something I’ve wanted to share for a while.
So we’ve been pretty lucky. That much is obvious if you take a look around at the roofs of the cute wooden Japanese lodges and see the metre thick slabs of condensed powder snow resting on them.
Gates are open in resort, and I’ve made it a habit to check the forecast and avalanche report every morning on the jam packed shuttles which Niseko powder hounds are squeezing themselves and their 120cm+ wide weapons of choice onto. It gives me peace in the AM.
Views from the top vary from not being able to see your fingertips from the flurries of snow being whipped in your face, to so clear that you can see Lake Toya and the ocean beyond an impressive Mt. Yotei.
This season in Niseko was about adventure. Beyond the perfect piste runs there is a vast amount of advanced terrain once you step outside the gates. Provided you follow the Niseko Rules and are aware that you are in avalanche terrain, you can stay safe whilst having fun.
Like most Japanese resorts, ducking ropes and going out of bounds has some severe consequences if you get caught, which, 9/10 times you will. You lose your lift pass for sure and if you’re a Seasonaire like me teaching for a ski school, you can’t work without it.
The buzz around touring and backcountry skiing is huge here, with the pristine snow, well spaced trees and just the amount of skiable terrain available, it would be a shame not to have un-pisted areas to ski.
After some persuasion, Niseko United came up with a compromise to keep some safer areas open to ski in resort, with access through gates. These gates are shown on the map above. The blue areas are the piste runs in resort, so provided you can read the contours, note the creeks and make your way back to the blue, easy peasy.
So… We decided to check it out 🙂
After all skis were securely put back on again… hehe.
Gate 9 – Waterfall and Watermelon
On a rare bluebird day after a 30cm Powder storm we found ourselves skiing through Gate 9, down an area called Waterfall. It’s named appropriately as the snow sits on a waterfall!
The run heads down along the valley with a creek at the bottom so be careful at where you cross, cross earlier rather than later and don’t hang around at the bottom for too long. You’ll find yourself winding on a rollercoaster run towards the Hirafu Gondola.
Following the ridge at the top of the Gate 9 instead of making a right, and dropping off towards Silver Dream is my favourite wide open pitch called Watermelon. It’s a secret!
In days of 30cm powder or more, it gets pretty slow so get into the habit of doing bouncy shorts down here.
Gate 11 – Mizu No Sawa
I’ve heard whispers about the little snow trap in Niseko Village called Mizu No Sawa. It’s steeper and gnarlier than the other inbound gates, and you almost feel lost in a gap between Niseko Village and Hirafu.
This runs alongside the other blacks in Niseko Village and you get a rope tow up to both of them to find it.
Patrollers stand at the entrance of this gate and make sure your beacon is turned on and fully operating before letting you loose in this powder playground.
For good reason too, the walls of the gullies are steep and open so prone to avalanches, which can have you quickly buried metres deep.
We had a pretty good time, as the day we went the rope tow was buried so there was only us in there and almost no tracks (it pays to hike a bit sometimes!)
The Peak of Mt Annupuri
If your goal is to get some cardio into your powder hunting regime, a 10-20 minute hike to Mt. Annupuri’s summit should sort you out. Standing at only 1308m high, on a clear day you get the most spectacular views as you float down on 50cm of the white stuff.
On a super clear day you can see from Hanazono 308 Cafe (at 308m) an ant trail of hikers heading up from the top of King #4; the pizza box lift.
Straight from the peak you can ski back into resort quite easily, but if you plan to go further make sure you have an exit plan to get back to resort! The 360 Niseko website has a great snow forecast also and Niseko Nadare has an avalanche report which should be mulled over before you plan to do any back country skiing there. Bring a map.
Off Piste In Resort – an abundance of tree runs!
Japan has incredibly fun terrain outside the gates. However if you know where to look, inside the gates are worth an explore too.
If you get up to the Hano 1 lift early enough (8am for 8:30am opening) then you could be choking on at least knee deep powder down Strawberry Fields, Blueberry Fields and Banana.
Go up two lifts higher (Hano 3), you can pick your way over a wide open powder field followed by fun tree terrain next to Yotei Sunset.
For those over Hirafu side, a short walk uphill from the Gondola brings you to Miharashi, the double black in resort. If you’re feeling brave, delving into the trees around here may reward you with some fresh tracks on steep tree terrain.
…And If you want help finding these places, just get in touch! 😀
In Niseko there are two resorts that provide night skiing – Annupuri and Hirafu. In Hirafu, you can ski from the daytime and roll into the night whilst watching the sun set and the bright floodlights come up.
Go on a clear night up to the top of Centre 4 Quad chairlift and you’ll find yourself looking out over a romantically pretty view of the slopes and Hirafu town all lit up.
A great chance to do laps of the longest bump run in Hirafu too, called Super. Bumps are easier to see once the lights come on!
Night skiing runs until 8:30pm so you can ski for 12 hours if you’re really keen.
Try not to be too keen though 😉
Piste Runs – shred whilst overlooking an impressive volcano
When the powder machines of the sky are not running, it’s time to get the piste skis out.
A piste day in Niseko is incredible. We don’t call it “Hero Snow” for no reason – you literally feel like a superhero.
My favourite pisted red runs in Resort are Jumbo and Center. Being higher up the mountain means that the snow’s always good. If you are more of a steep and groomed fan, and you see the black run off of the King #4 Pizza Box Lift is groomed, it will honestly be the best piste you ever ski in Niseko.
Perfect groomers, inbound tree runs, a peak hike and gates to a vast powder playground. The level of stoke is high.