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I spent a season in Revelstoke in BC many years ago, working for CMH Heli-skiing. It's an area that receives similar amounts of snow (if not more) than Niseko. Avalanches were a daily occurrence there

I read a few of your posts and none of them had a please in them. A little hypocritical don't you think?

Are you also the guardian of this forum then?

 

For the record to everyone else, please and thank you in advance.

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Hornster, Powder Ski has a great article in the current issue. The last avalanche in Niseko that killed somebody was 1999 and it was off the peak that everybody skis. There were 8 deaths from 1985-1999 (when Niseko local rules was implemented) anywhere from Mizuno Sawa, Haru no Taki, the back bowl, etc. There are avalanches at Niseko so dont be fooled. But, patrol up there, Niseko Nadare (avie) group, and a few other organizations daily digpits, assume risk, and decide whether to close areas off or not.

 

For all of you reading this out there, if there is something closed at Niseko, its for a good reason! I hope there arent punters out there reading this (or not) who go off and ski the back bowl without avie gear. Dont be stupid.

 

Niseko Local Rules were created because people jumped ropes regardless of what patrol did back in the day. So, to protect themselves, as well as riders, they took down (most ropes) and check avie hazard daily, kinda like what you get on the forum for the Hakuba NOW! report. Those guys who do Hakuba Now and also the Niseko crew are closing areas for a good reason. Now, if its blocked off, it appears most people dont go riding it because knowledge as diffused enough over the years that powder hunters who go there trust what patrol says to be accurate, rather than just keeping you out of the area cuz its not safe. Thats kinda what makes Niseko ahead of the game, theyre proactive in avie control, rather than just saying its dangerous or you cant go in there cuz its outta bounds.

 

tired so hope this makes sense.

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The snow pack in Niseko is remarkably stable considering the amount of snow we receive. Of course they can and do happen but within the resort boundary and in the allowed off-piste areas there has never been a death from an avie as far as I know (at least since the Niseko Local Rules were implemented). Where do they occur? In all the obvious places they'd occur on any mountain in the world. Areas under cornices or below convex slopes or where there's large amounts of wind deposition. The gates allowing you into off-piste areas are pretty well managed so if you don't duck ropes and have a little knowledge of danger signs then generally avies pose little danger in Niseko. The main season we get big avies is in Spring when full thickness slabs can release down the bowls. I've seen a few shallow slides in winter but nothing serious enough to completely bury anyone.

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Thanks very much for the information. I was just curious because when I was out in Niseko last season for a week I didn't see, hear or know of any avalanches. I did think that the very top of the mountain at Higashiyama and Annapuri looked like the ideal type of slope for avalanches if the conditions were right.

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I spent a season in Revelstoke in BC many years ago, working for CMH Heli-skiing. It's an area that receives similar amounts of snow (if not more) than Niseko. Avalanches were a daily occurrence there and you could often see and/or hear them from town. I did a fair bit of backcountry skiing out from Rogers Pass and it was seriously scary at times. I and two others did get buried in an avie whilst heli-skiing one day (no one died luckily).

 

The main difference between here and there is the variation in weather. The Pacific side of the Rockies has extremely variable weather conditions like snow to sea level one day and rain to over 2500m the next. This can make for very unstable layers in the snow pack. Niseko on the other hand has sub freezing temperatures for pretty much the whole winter with it rarely getting above -10 at mid mountain from Dec through Feb. Niseko also gets few clear days or nights meaning there's little sun or hoar frosts affecting the surface. Also the snowflakes here in winter are predominantly fernlike stellar dendrites whose fernlike structure bonds well with other flakes making the snow pack quite stable. Anyway I'm no specialist but these are my observations.

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For someone who considers themself not to be a specialist in this field you certainly seem to know what you are talking about. Thanks again.

 

What I enjoyed about skiing in Niseko was that there is just so much powder in the in-bounds off-piste areas that there is honestly no need to duck ropes to ski powder. I tend to get up early with the first gondola etc so I always get first tracks everyday. I suppose that if it is fresh tracks that encourages people to duck ropes then the simple answer is to get up earlier!

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Just wanted to say a big thank you to GN and CB for sharing thier knowledge on this topic.

 

Great information and will help educate a lot more people than just Hornster (thanks for asking the questions Hornster!). I know I have heard/read a lot of that info before, but I understood more of it this time. Can't get too much Avie knowledge really can you?

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Funny Okemo

 

- but for those who are not aware that you are taking the p!$$ re terrain - if it snows it can slide.

 

Yes some area's are a bigger danger than others, but it is not worth heading out to the slopes of even a 'safe' resort believing it can't happen. THAT is how people get caught up in disasters that could have been avoided. Like the young bloke who died in Aus this season who walked out onto a cornice on a lovely warm day - and it gave way below him. With a bit more knowledge he might not have ventured out there, trajedy might have been averted.

 

There is no such thing as asking a stupid question - and there is no such thing as too much safety knowledge.

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The whole of Japan has a maritime snowpack. I have always been surprised that the snow in some places is advertised as "champagne". It can get extremely light at times similar to continental areas, but it is not the norm. Maritime snowpacks tend to be more stable than continental packs such as in the rockies. The shear depth of snow helps with regards to temperature gradient except early on in the season, but as mentionned earlier the high variability of weather can make it very tricky as well. Mr. Wiggles is the pro on all this so may be able to add.

 

A season in heliskiing in the stoke must quite the experience GN.

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Originally Posted By: Mamabear
Funny Okemo

- but for those who are not aware that you are taking the p!$$ re terrain - if it snows it can slide.

Yes some area's are a bigger danger than others, but it is not worth heading out to the slopes of even a 'safe' resort believing it can't happen. THAT is how people get caught up in disasters that could have been avoided. Like the young bloke who died in Aus this season who walked out onto a cornice on a lovely warm day - and it gave way below him. With a bit more knowledge he might not have ventured out there, trajedy might have been averted.

There is no such thing as asking a stupid question - and there is no such thing as too much safety knowledge.


Your right, I did see the snow slide off the roof of my hotel in Niseko. PSA Be sure and wear your beacons while walking to and from the resort.
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Originally Posted By: Mamabear
There is no such thing as asking a stupid question - and there is no such thing as too much safety knowledge.


But, Okemo, there is such a thing as being too silly for words.
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If/When one does let go in Niseko off the peak it could take out a lot of people (maybe not completely bury but I wouldn't bet on it). Heaps of people without a clue sit in the gullies scratching their arses enjoying the view and taking photos while dozens of people are dropping in on top of them. If you don't get buried there are plenty of trees to be smashed into aswell. There will be two main types of people caught, those who are unaware of the risk and those who don't respect the risk (because they have been in "riskier" terrain before with no problems).

 

Any avie can be bad news. With so many people around the probability unfortunately can increase.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sorry CB, have to disagree with you a bit. Some areas in Niseko are closed simply because they've never been opened or managed properly. Case in point, Mizu no sawa. The management have done testing and blasting for three years and it's the local gov't who are blocking this area and others from opening simply because they don't care and don't need the hassle. I'm not even sure that the local "avie group" is even trying to help speed up the process. Someone did die there many years ago but please don't tell me that these closed areas are any more dangerous than the areas that they do open (besides the guts of haru no taki). The Higashiyama resort even had an avalanche risk assesment expert from Canada visit, train staff and survey the mizu no sawa area. His verdict was that it would be most stable and safest if people simply skied it regularly. Of course there will be dangerous days for these areas too and they should be managed accordingly.

The "Niseko Local Rules" (and I cringe at that name, but that's a whole other topic) were created to relieve the pressure of people wanting to ski off piste and in my opinion is a bandage that will break as soon as there is another avie accident anywhere in the Niseko area. That said at least they are doing something and are informing people. Unfortunately they are not acting on behalf of the Japan avi association as a large Japan-wide body giving it more unity and strength.

Then you have most places in Hokkaido like Rusutsu who turn a blind eye to skiing off piste even though it is officially forbidden and finally places like Asahidake where you can ski anywhere you like and could easily die from an avalanche or getting lost. How the hell is the average punter going to know the diference!!??

An international resort (asahidake is not a resort mind you) should accomodate international tourists and operate at international standards. Not a new or novel idea.

Sorry to vent and I know a bit off topic, but still love Japan... minus the cross-armed oyagis.

 

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>Sorry CB, have to disagree with you a bit. Some areas in Niseko are closed simply because they've never been opened or managed properly. Case in point, Mizu no sawa. The management have done testing and blasting for three years and it's the local gov't who are blocking this area and others from opening simply because they don't care and don't need the hassle.

 

Right, thats the govt that is stopping them, not the resorts. Kinda hard to fight the govt here - especially when there is no precident for them to act/compare it with. Japanese suck at setting precidents and get so hung up in procedure the cause/fight for what they were working for gets lost in the void.

 

I dunno if it was clear BD, but I was also trying to point out that some days the peak and other areas are closed. And that if they are for people not to go out and ski those areas bc they prolly are prone to slide.

 

>The Higashiyama resort even had an avalanche risk assesment expert from Canada visit, train staff and survey the mizu no sawa area. His verdict was that it would be most stable and safest if people simply skied it regularly. Of course there will be dangerous days for these areas too and they should be managed accordingly.

 

Which gets back to theyre trying to do all they can to open it up, but since it is a national park (regulated by the govt, right?) they have to abide by govt rules.

 

Im not saying its right because I agree with, "you have most places in Hokkaido like Rusutsu who turn a blind eye to skiing off piste even though it is officially forbidden and finally places like Asahidake where you can ski anywhere you like and could easily die from an avalanche or getting lost. How the hell is the average punter going to know the diference!!??"

 

Happo is very lax, but Goryu/47 arent. Why? I have no idea. Then you have other areas in the valley where its just cat and mouse w/patrol. Obviously some areas that people ski, if slid, could slide to the runs/cat track, which would be devestating, but other areas where its S.C. dont slide to anywhere dangerous. Yet, those who know nuff bout avies and those courses still cant take responsibility for themselves.

 

Something Japan sucks at. They dont understand "responsibility". Going to digress now, but bear with me. Have you guys seen on the news about Kei Uni, Waseda Uni, and Doshisha Uni, have all had students arrested recently for pot? That would be nothing new in the States, yet its huge news here. What does the Board do? They go on TV and do the deep bows worship worship in front of hundreds of reporters taking the blame for those kids rolleyes Why? Because they see it as their fault, but obviously to us, all they wanna do is protect their image. Now, what happens if somebody dies at a resort? That happened at Tsugaike last year right, or was it two years ago where the uni profs took some uni kids on a ski trip. They had part of the cat track closed off bc the S. facing slopes were prone to slide. They ducked the ropes to continue going down the cat track and got swept away in an avie. One or two died. Again, that was the resorts fault and you could see them doing their 申ã—訳ãªã„s on TV. This might not be the best example bc that lecturer ended up worship worship worship a million times himself, but I honestly dont think this country understands the idea of "personal responsiblity" so when it comes to something dangerous all they say is dame!! You cant to it!

 

>An international resort (asahidake is not a resort mind you) should accomodate international tourists and operate at international standards. Not a new or novel idea.

 

True, but for the Japanese, it is something different bc it falls out of the realm of "this is how it has always been done here" and they dont know what to do about that. They suck at setting precidents.

 

All I can say is that some places are making the effort, and others arent. It might not be coming fast enough, but that is bureacracy in this country, it moves like molasses.

 

Ive been posting bout mizu no sawa on here for the past 3-5 years in hopes of them opening it up, but I quit holding my breath. In the mean time other mountains in Japan are opening up, so at least we can see some progression party

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