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GN, you never cease to amaze me with your blatent ignorance.

 

If this person is asking about renting gear, it means he/she doesn't have their own gear, which tells me they are probably not that experienced in the backcountry.

 

If you've been here for 7 years then you obviously know how quickly the weather can change here. If you don't know the area, you're inexperienced in the backcountry and you get yourself into a scary situation, what the hell are you going to do?

 

Not everybody needs a guide, you're absolutely right. People who are experienced, up for the challenge and are confident about the abilities of everyone in thier group should go for it. I'm the first person point out where the best runs are, I want everyone of every ability to have a great day.

 

What a guide does or should do is make you feel safe because he/she knows the area well, is educated in avalanche awareness, has first aid and self-rescue certifications, and most importantly has experience guiding and therefore can hopefully foresee problems before they happen. Plus they should also stoke you out by finding you the best snow for the day.

 

You mentioned somewhere that companies try to "scare" people into "believing" that they need a guide when really there is no real danger, yet you mention the serious avalanche that occured just past the gates at the same time. I have seen several natural and human triggered slides set off in the niseko backbowls so I have no idea of what you are talking about claiming it's safe.

 

Here's another story for you to think about GN.

Guided trip out the gates into the BACKCOUNTRY. Group approaches the next pitch they are about to ski. Guide points out the large glide crack about 50m below them and they discuss the route they will ski to avoid the 3m crack.

Skiers start going down one by one, guide in safe zone watching from above. Last skier about to start her first run, catches an edge and falls forward, skis behind her. Starts sliding slowly, everyone (including herself) thinking she has plenty of time get her skis in front of her on this low angle slope in time to stop and avoid falling in the crack...doesn't happen. She goes head first into the crack, guide races down to help. Gets to the top of the crack only to find all but one leg sticking out of the snow. The sluff that she brought down with her fell in the crack after she did. The snow had compacted around her and hardened up.

Guide does his job by taking charge, getting out his and other clients shovels, and five minutes later he's pulling out a skier gasping for breath. The guide saved that skiers life, and she definitely let him know that and thanked him profusely.

 

Point is that if they did not all have gear with them, it would have been almost impossible to have saved her.

 

Accidents happen but preventable accidents are usually due to ignorance.

 

And you always mention this "risk" as a form of freedom and maybe even what we all search for. Agreed, but can you show me one mountain guide or pro skier (who take risks all the time) that ski open bowls and backcountry without gear?

 

Why, being an educated and seasoned skier wouldn't you carry gear, I just don't get it?

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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 have an interested story to tell about Niseko 35 years ago. I could see GN will be chuckling about my antiquated experience but dig this.

There were no Gondola, no so many lifts, just single lifts at this time. Annupri and Hirafu was separated by 400m straight walk from the highest point on lifts on both sides. We went from Annupri to Hirafu no problems but on the way back we missed the last lift going to the highest point at the end of the day. According to gerende map, the 2 lifts were supposed to connect but the reality was that they were separated by a steep short run.

So we improvised. It wasn't a straight walk. We had to go around a bowl . We saw a surface avalanche start a little lower than we were. It started to snow like - white out we couldn't see where we were going. It was getting real cold. I guessed the direction. My mate was freaking out a bit.

We made it to Annupri and took a satisfying leak and enjoyed being last one down. When we got back, we had frostbitten hands.

My lesson. A mountain is still a mountain even when it has lifts and called a ski-jo.

I could see we could have been unlucky. If I were new to the place, I reckon I would hire a guide/instructor to show me the place. Especially so if I am on my own, at glacier areas, avalanche danger time.

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Originally Posted By: Jynxx
I have an interested story to tell about Niseko 35 years ago. I could see GN will be chuckling about my antiquated experience but dig this.
There were no Gondola, no so many lifts, just single lifts at this time. Annupri and Hirafu was separated by 400m straight walk from the highest point on lifts on both sides. We went from Annupri to Hirafu no problems but on the way back we missed the last lift going to the highest point at the end of the day. According to gerende map, the 2 lifts were supposed to connect but the reality was that they were separated by a steep short run.
So we improvised. It wasn't a straight walk. We had to go around a bowl . We saw a surface avalanche start a little lower than we were. It started to snow like - white out we couldn't see where we were going. It was getting real cold. I guessed the direction. My mate was freaking out a bit.
We made it to Annupri and took a satisfying leak and enjoyed being last one down. When we got back, we had frostbitten hands.
My lesson. A mountain is still a mountain even when it has lifts and called a ski-jo.
I could see we could have been unlucky. If I were new to the place, I reckon I would hire a guide/instructor to show me the place. Especially so if I am on my own, at glacier areas, avalanche danger time.


BD, I think you may have misinterpreted GN a little bit. I was a bit confused by his post but re-read it and as he said he does wear gear and such in the "true backcountry"

This is the only part I would disagree on is what is "true backcountry". I say anything that isn't controlled is backcountry and should have gear. The reason is not only are you endangering yourself when you are in side country areas, but also a lot of other people. I would never ski something questionable if there was a chance other people below could be hurt as a result of my actions. Not to mention if ski patrol has to come get you they too become endangered at your foolishness.

Also just because you have never seen an avalanche does not give you any seniority over anyone else. Anyone who travels in the backcountry needs to be aware of the dangers of ANYTHING. It doesn't matter if you have skied it 100 times or 1. I skied a chute yesterday that I have done 20 times+ in different conditions. Yet yesterday a slide followed me out and while it wasn't enough to bury me, it was certainly enough to push me in a direction I didn't want to go (off 60 foot cliffs straight to rock = probably death) if I had gone slower or stopped in the chute... confused

I think Jynxx put it the best way. A mountain is still a mountain whether it has lifts on it or not. I have seen/heard of people getting killed in bounds too. As soon as you render the threat of an avalanche "improbable", you automatically make yourself that much less prepared. It doesn't hurt to be safe about things, but it certainly does to be ill-prepared.
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BD the only avalanche deaths and most injuries I know of in this region over the last few years have all been on so called 'guided' tours. So forgive me if I don't have much faith in the quality of guiding in this area.

 

I have no problem with people wanting to take gear out through the gates but would argue that it is not 'needed'. If you are a very safety concious person then go for it. As I said I've been here 7 seasons and never had gear out of the gates and know plenty of others including many of my Japanese friends and other foreign locals who also don't use gear out of the gates. The vast bulk of people hiking the peak and skiing the bowls do not carry gear, much to your disgust BD I know. Yet despite all these crazy, irresponsible people, 1000's of them over the years going out through the gates there has not been one avalanche death on this mountain since they started using the gate system. Not one in over 8 years. I doubt any other high snowfall ski area in the world has such an incredibly good safety record and this is despite the fact that there are virtually no avalanche control measures by resort management.

 

I'm a big believer in the system that you take responsibility for yourself when you head out through the gates. I believe it is clearly stated at all gates that this is the case. The level of risk you are prepared to take should be up to you. I normally ski alone on the mountain and also do numerous solo backcountry trips so having gear is often pretty much useless anyway. When I go out through a gate I don't expect anyone else to be responsible for me and I don't feel responsible for anyone else.

 

The main thing that concerns me BD is that people like yourself would love to see access through the gates restricted to those who have avi gear only. You truly think it's irresponsible for someone like myself who's an experienced backcountry skier and who has gear and doesn't always use it. Whether I am irreponsible or not to me is beside the point. Once I'm outside of the resort boundary the real question is why on earth do you care what happens to people like me? Just let us be irresponsible if we want to be.

 

 

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"She was completely buried at times during the slide but ended up only partially buried at the bottom". your quote on this thread.

 

You can do what you want to and be as irresponsible as you want but my only request is please don't lead other less "experienced" people down this path by claiming it's safe.

 

And yeah, seeing people flying down the backbowls in nothing but a pokemon or pooh bear suit not realizing the situation they are putting themselves in does bug me, but that's just me.

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You know that the group involved in that slide are all experienced and have all the gear including avalungs. You also know they hiked a bit to access an area that few others would have on that day because of top gate closures. The average person coming over here is very unlikely to put themselves into that position. I've never claimed it's completely risk free. But how many years with no deaths does it take before you can say it's relatively pretty damned safe? It's as though you believe even one death is totally unacceptable ever. I agree that odds are on that one day some time in the future in all likelihood there will be another avi death here. Those involved may or may not be carrying gear. I just don't understand the seemingly overwhelming concern that this may occur.

I mean supposedly something like 16,000 children die needlessly from hunger related illnesses alone every single day. That's every single day! We haven't had one avi death here in something like 10 or more years and you're really concerned about people skiing out of gates without avi gear? As I say I just don't get it. People die all the time and often from the most ridiculous things. Why so much concern about someone possibly dying in an avalanche one day on a little hill in northern Japan?

Me I'm just happy for people to come here and have what I know for many is one of the best skiing experiences of their entire lives. If we were to lose one or two people every 10-15 years I don't think that's too high a price at all for the possibility of having such an experience like that. I know they can still have that experience with avi gear but based on the incredible record of safety here I don't see the 'need' to have it. Statistically I'd say I take a far greater risk to my life each day by driving to and from work on icy roads than I do skiing out through the gates here without avi gear.

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Just some food for thought: today my roommate got caught up in an avalanche about 3-4 feet deep and 200 feet wide. He was carried quite a ways and went under several times, but luckily came out on top. Very scary thing to have happen and he is very very luckily to only have dislocated both of his shoulders. Could have easily taken a turn for the worst.

 

This is a bowl that generally is notorious for sliding but the avy reports were all at low-moderate today. Just goes to show you that you never know and they certainly didn't expect this slide.

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Heaps and heaps of people have died from avi's this season in the Alps, as they do most years and I'm sure plenty more in the US and Canada. So far another year going by without one at Niseko. MitchPee I'm not some crazy risk taker, hell I have a young child but frankly the avi risks and stories from overseas don't really make this place any more dangerous or the risk here any more probable. Tell me is there one resort in your region that has not had even one avi death in the last 10 years from people skiing out of bounds or off piste? If there was such a place wouldn't you consider it on the whole pretty incredibly safe?

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I hear ya GN. I didn't make that post to direct it at you or belittle you by inferring you had no avi knowledge. I know you have expertise on the area, but all I wanted to get through on that post was that I almost lost a friend last week in a supposedly "safe" slackcountry area. Just something I think everyone should have in the back of their mind.

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It may be argued that less people ski off piste in Japan compared to USA, Europe. The resort is taking measures to discourage it, self regulate it, and somehow successful and people (Japanese) are convinced in that. And that most people think it is dangerous to do that. Pity about that - when someone who doesn't take care, who isn't experienced, goes for it and shit happens, the negative impact can put people off from a great experience. So in some sports you don't hear about the danger. Like tandem skydiving. People want to think it is aafe because you are doing it with a professional. The only thing that is professional about it is making sure they are not liable for the cock up which you will die.

So i don't think you can say statistically one is a safe resort. It can come out more of a shock when someone dies in the slack area or on piste just because people expect to be "bullet proof" safe there. Even if this happens once in 20 years it doesn't matter. I just think it is better to understand that skiing and snowboarding is like risk associated with motorbike riding. One can keep the risk factor under some self controll however there are unknown factors.

I really don't think there are any safe resorts. In Austria, one is expected to know what you are doing on the mountain. There are less signs about danger, roped off areas. The North Americans will definitely consider this as a liability.

There are differences so we can't compare. The snow is different, the mountain, the people ... we just do what we think is better.

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Jynxx I doubt the dream run of no deaths here will last forever. The number of people skiing out through the gates at Niseko is huge now and has been for many years. Statistically it is almost certain another avi death will eventually happen. I guess the question is how much do you value that potential loss of life? Say compared to how much of Niseko's success is based on the liberal off-piste and slackcountry access? Does the potential of loss of life, even though the risk is very low when compared to nearly any other ski area on the planet, outweigh all other considerations? It doesn't for me...

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I agree with you that I want to have my fun. And if I want to take my chance even when the survival rate is low that is my business.

 

I do think that at the times the we live now, we need to watch our back and others.

That means in some places like USA, it comes out as managing liability claims. - has there been warnings, information, training opportunities available and the participant sign the waiver.

In Australia, taking nanny state measures.

In Japan, making sure there is a official local policy.

When there is a loss of life, to the people whom care most, it is a valueless loss. They want explanation and accountability.

For others, they want to know what went wrong so they can learn from it and avoid further similar incidents.

It is understandable that commercial interests should not outweigh compromise in personal safety. Nor, exercising personal freedom result in a loss of life someone else. Have that person acted in a responsible manner to ensure other's safety. This is were the "Responsable" word comes in. It is not within one's right to be irresponsible in this manner.

 

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I agree with everything you've said there Jynxx. I just know that there are quite a few people here who would love to see stricter controls for those going through gates at the resort. This push is not from resort management and as far as I'm concerned totally disregards the excellent safety record of the current system. I'm sure when an avi death does eventually happen here again we'll see these people stridently calling for stricter controls to be enforced. As I've said before if avi deaths were occurring here every season like they do in many resorts in the Alps, US or Canada believe me I'd probably fully support stricter controls on access but they don't. I could be wrong (correct me if I am) but I think the last avi death here was back in '98 and occurred in an area that now is banned from any access. The current system of access seems to work extremely well and reasonably safely. Can there really be an argument made to make it safer? How safe can it really get?

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I really like the way Niseko manages these risks...

 

I think that the area is conducive to progressive advancement, and provides excellent instructors who are capable of equipping people to manage in these off piste area's. The majority of people are not heading through the gates until they feel 'ready' after learning to choose their lines and assess the terrain inbounds. There is so much choice for intermediates inbounds as to not feel they need to be in a hurry to step out.

 

There are also levels of difficulty within those gates, some much more of a challenge than others - so people can gradually progress from the easiest of the gated area's to more difficult area's - learning as they go.

 

For the majority of people if there is an off piste fun experience located just to the left or right of a groomed run, with very little slide danger attached they are going to hit that over and over rather than hike to a riskier locale to get something a little more hardcore. The gate system in Niseko probably keeps the majority of skiers and boarders out of the danger area's by simply making the less risky but fun area's easily accessible.

 

A lot better system than an all or none ... where you are either on a groomed trail or you are 'ducking ropes'.

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  • 3 months later...

Reading this thread was probably the best use of my work time in months.

 

props to you all for sharing knowledge and stories!

 

Can anyone recommend a good text book about snow pack and the mechanics of avalanches? (I like to get nerdy)

 

Cheers

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Best thing I ever did each morning was to read the Niseko Now reports with a nice hot coffee before heading out to explore. Take a little laptop or iPhone and you are all set smile (oh and don't forget to look out the window too wink )

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Originally Posted By: Schneebored
Reading this thread was probably the best use of my work time in months.

props to you all for sharing knowledge and stories!

Can anyone recommend a good text book about snow pack and the mechanics of avalanches? (I like to get nerdy)

Cheers



Id start with The Avalanche Handbook and Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain for starters - doing a class is essential, and practice what you learn. It means nothing if you dont know your beacon and dont practice with it.
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I think it would be great if they have a dedicated area to practice with beacons. It would be entertaining for the kids, too. Start them early with Avi education. A info centre attatched to it.

Major companies like Pieps might sponcer it ...

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I prefer to let nature take it's course and for the idiots to die in an ice coccoon of their own making! Sure some innocents may be taken out as well but that's the price you have to pay to be rid of the idiots! razz

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Originally Posted By: Go Native
I prefer to let nature take it's course and for the idiots to die in an ice coccoon of their own making! Sure some innocents may be taken out as well but that's the price you have to pay to be rid of the idiots! razz


GN's real name means Good Natured DARWIN hahahhaa
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Originally Posted By: Creek Boy
Id start with The Avalanche Handbook and Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain for starters


Just done a little Amazon shop and brought the following;

- The Avalanche Handbook: Looks good for general reading.
- Avalanche Dynamics: Heavier text, goes deeper into the mechanics, chemistry and math.

Will post comments/opinions when i receive them.

Originally Posted By: Creek Boy
doing a class is essential, and practice what you learn. It means nothing if you dont know your beacon and dont practice with it.


Couldnt agree more. Done a couple of classes now, and frequently play beacon hide and seek with the lady.
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