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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

Just found out that the guy who died was on a guided tour with a Sapporo based company which really compounds the stupidity of being out on that mountain on that day.

Last year also a guided trip out near Nitoannupuri was hit by an avie and similar to this year they were out there during a storm when avie danger was extreme.

 

On both days all gates in Niseko were closed due to the avie danger.

 

Really got to wonder about some of these so called 'guides' and the decisions they are making to continue a trip on very high avalanche danger days.

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You will see that a lot in UT. Sometimes the temptations become to great. I have been guilty of definitely treading into some questionable terrain. I am no Snowbird Ski Patrol but I know snow conditions really well and how to react in situations of danger. Yet I know that doesn't excuse me for telling my brain to quiet down and take risks that great.

 

With that said, sometimes it surprises me that people like that will put their lives in danger, but at the same time I understand it. I don't know the circumstances so I can't really judge.

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But Mitch that is a decision you make for yourself.

 

For the rest of us - we lesser mortals looking to discover the back country for the first time, or with little experience. We think we are doing the right thing by booking a guided tour with an experienced guide who KNOWS what the safe things to do are, and will take adequate caution.

 

Scary.

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Yeah I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that if you have paid someone to guide you onto a slope then they have enough knowledge and experience to sometimes say sorry guys but today isn't the day to ski down there. I get the feeling that in Japan this doesn't happen too often, they feel obligated to complete a tour when the client has paid. I could be wrong on that? Anyone else know of similar situations?

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It certainly happens a lot. A hiking tour in Hokkaido ended in disaster last summer for similar reasons. Several hikers died during a storm then. I know of more than one company that have no policies for refunds because of poor conditions thus putting pressure on organizers and guides (usually unrelated to sales) to complete tours even in terrible conditions (this is related to companies that do bus tours, surf schools, and hiking guides). It's beyond scary, it's criminal negligence and should be prosecuted.

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That is feaky. Scary. A long 4 and a half minutes.

Ends well but imagine dying like that over the time of 15min. Damn.

 

We never know the full extent of the dangers in a lot of activities.

Commercial operations does not mean professional standards. Remember there have been a few times (in Australia) where scuba divers were abandoned just because the skipper and the crew of the dive boat can't count.

Even under professional standards, shit happens. We don't want to become the "statistics", but people should be made aware what you are getting into. This is extreme sports and survival territory.

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Yeah but in Australia Jynxx those companies would end up being sued out of existence, they don't last long if they are sloppy. I don't think the same happens here in Japan.

 

And yes in extreme sports things can go wrong. In mountaineering for instance sometimes it matters not how much knowledge and experience you have, sometimes something huge can just fall off from higher up and wipe out a few people.

Avalanches can also just happen even when conditions appear reasonably stable. In the cases I pointed out above though avalanche danger in the region was considered extreme and you basically would have to have been crazy to head out backcountry with an experienced, well equipped group let alone take out paying customers who are relying on your judgement to keep them safe.

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Being kept accountable through negligence claims is a very different thing to governments making blanket rules to protect the masses.

 

Mitch made the point that he sometimes takes risks he probably shouldn't because the moment just gets to him and personally I think he has every right in the world to do that. I believe people have every right to take whatever risks they want (as long as they don't pose a great risk to others who are not involved). They die? Fine that's their choice.

 

When you pay someone though to take you beyond what your own experience and skills allow then you entrust that they have the skills and experience to make good decisions with your safety in mind. If something bad happens and it can be shown that they have acted negligently then I say sue their asses off. At least in places like Australia it doesn't matter what waivers you sign if you've paid money to someone to look after you and it can be found they've acted negligently then you can still sue.

 

It's my belief that in the two avie incidents I've mentioned there has been negligence on the part of the guiding companies by entering backcountry terrain on days of extreme avalanche danger.

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GN , this diving operation was still operating when it happened the second time.

 

Mamabear, I'm sure some of us don't mind Nanny states. I don't like Big brother states though.

 

I do think Aussies get away with professional negligence more than other developed nations. In terms of criminal prosecution and civil compensation. Japan does have "manslaughter under occupational responsibility" and most likely be paying for the rest of your life in financial compensation. (This goes if you have an accident driving a car.)

 

The question I ask is, Is the level of what it called professional qualification too low, and how come it is accredited as such?

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Mine was a personal basis yes, if I was with a couple of my friends. However, in the company of other people and during your occupation it would be incredibly difficult for me to ever justify going out into terrain I know has a good chance of sliding. As my friends and I often go out, we know the terrain and conditions really well. I only go out into terrain that is questionable with people I trust and know are capable of rescuing me should something happen.

 

So yes Mamabear, I completely agree there is no way that one can justify doing that in a job when you are supposed to be the lifeline to other people.

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Do the guides in Japan have any certifications. I know in Germany and Austria to be a guide you need to be certified through the bergfuehrer program. For what its worth it at least lets the client know there is some level of competency.

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It seems that Japan needs to take ski guiding to the next level. How many of the so called guides have actually taken avy classes or for that matter guiding courses of any description. I have hired a couple of guides in Niseko only to be pretty disappointed. I thought it would be the right thing to do, support the local economy only to find their knowledge limited. Very different when hiring a guide in Chamonix. You know what your going to get every time.

The international UIAGM standard for guides needs to be adopted by the Japanese so the quality of the guides service remains high.

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Originally Posted By: Go Native
Yeah but in Australia Jynxx those companies would end up being sued out of existence, they don't last long if they are sloppy. I don't think the same happens here in Japan.



that might be true GN, but if you're dead, you can't sue anybody!! I agree that if you are paying money for a guide, you expect them to be an expert in that field, not just competent. They are your safety support and need to know what they are doing if the shit hits the fan
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i heard the higashi one face, which to get to from gate 5 would involve a pretty long traverse unless the hiked up from Gate 5.

i liked the Avie report yesterday with the comments on not making ugly lines by traversing and follow the fall line.

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I may have posted before but it's worth putting out again.

 

Niseko Avalanche report is available on the Niseko Now reports.

 

If you see Mr Shinya works at gate 1 in the AM you should thank him for the excellent report that gets put out. cheers

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Originally Posted By: Foxpuppet
i heard the higashi one face, which to get to from gate 5 would involve a pretty long traverse unless the hiked up from Gate 5.
i liked the Avie report yesterday with the comments on not making ugly lines by traversing and follow the fall line.


Pretty hard to get on top of Higashi One ridge from gate 5 but you can traverse right across to just below and right of the cornice reasonably easily (at least on skis). I had a chat with one of the people involved in the avi and she said it occured just below to the right of the cornice where there is a convex slope that rolls over into a fairly steep gully. The guy who was most injured actually didn't get taken very far down but hit and got wedged around a tree. She told me she got taken down quite a long way through 3 bands of trees, at times going head over heels numerous times comlpletely out of control. Luckily though she only had glancing blows off a few trees. She was completely buried at times during the slide but ended up only partially buried at the bottom. All of them had gear and have have skied that areas many times previously.
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Originally Posted By: Go Native
Originally Posted By: Foxpuppet
i heard the higashi one face, which to get to from gate 5 would involve a pretty long traverse unless the hiked up from Gate 5.
i liked the Avie report yesterday with the comments on not making ugly lines by traversing and follow the fall line.


Pretty hard to get on top of Higashi One ridge from gate 5 but you can traverse right across to just below and right of the cornice reasonably easily (at least on skis). I had a chat with one of the people involved in the avi and she said it occured just below to the right of the cornice where there is a convex slope that rolls over into a fairly steep gully. The guy who was most injured actually didn't get taken very far down but hit and got wedged around a tree. She told me she got taken down quite a long way through 3 bands of trees, at times going head over heels numerous times comlpletely out of control. Luckily though she only had glancing blows off a few trees. She was completely buried at times during the slide but ended up only partially buried at the bottom. All of them had gear and have have skied that areas many times previously.


There was a similar death today in UT. The man was only 3 ft below the surface but trauma knocked him out. Unfortunately it doesn't seem that his party was well prepared for an avalanche and he passed away after being buried for 40 mins.

Be careful people sadface
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi - this is my first visit to Japan and I will be skiing in Niseko and Risutsu. As a new visitor I would be very grateful for some advice as I have read this forum often and you guys are amazing. Can anybody please tell me if it is possible to rent safety equipment (transceiver, shovel, probe) on a daily basis in Niseko or do you have to be skiing with a guide or a particular company to get it? Ross3pin commented that he has been disappointed in some of the Niseko guides' experience so I wondered if anyone could suggest guiding companies with avalanche experienced guides?

Thanks so much for any advice

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You can rent gear here and if you go on a guided trip it is usually provided. The question is though why do you need or want a guide? If you are skiing within the resort boundary there is no need at all. If you are skiing out through the gates there really isn't any need for a guide or gear. Some people prefer to have avi gear but personally I've been skiing here for 7 seasons and only ski off-piste and mostly out through the gates and off the peak. I've never carried avi gear and have never seen anyone get buried. I do take gear with me though when heading out into the true backcountry. So if you intend on heading out through the gates take avi gear if you want to but I'd argue it's not really needed. Only worth having the gear if with a group who also has it. If you are intending on heading out backcountry away from the resort a guide and gear is recommended.

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