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That was a great day.   For now though. Need. More. Fresh. Snow.

I wouldn't head across JUST yet though Mike.......it needs a big storm. A lot of the good trees on Isola weren't filled in with a lot of sasa poking through

Some friends of mine headed off to Chamonix on xmas day because they found Niseko too busy last year!



15 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ



My shovelling muscles are back in action :)


Another great top up overnight, and Hirafu opened the runs back to the base of Center 4 today.


Great powder to be had all over the mountain. The sun even came out briefly.


Skied with Tracy and Ian in Hirafu in the morning, and when Ian took his leave Tracy & I headed over to Hanazono for a couple of runs.












This was Ian's first day on snow this season and he was sporting new boots and skis.


His Dynafit TLT 5 Mountain boots had died a graceful death so he got another pair.


And he's traded in his Rossignol 78 Temptation's for a pair of 166cm Armada Pipe Cleaners (116-83-106), centre mounted with Dynafit bindings.


Didn't take him long to find his balance points with 'less ski in front of him'.












It snowed far more off than on for the rest of the day, with waist deep conditions and face shots in and out of the trees.


For lunch I took Tracy to Boyoso for the first time. Right up his street.



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14 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ



A wonderful sunny morning for Ian and mine's first visit to Kiroro for the season.


This is the fourth consecutive year that we've had seasons passes, and it's always great to be welcomed back by the resort staff who recognise you from previous winters.


The resort was a hive of happy activity with families over from Thailand, Singapore & China; race teams getting some early season coaching in; groups of retirees up from Honshu; and Akaigawa, Otaru and Sapporo locals finding their ski legs.


There is considerably less snow on the ground than in previous Decembers - which is an Hokkaido wide occurance this winter - and it was fascinating to be able to see what's under all the snow that we ski so carefree on.


First off there's a small pond beside the Mountain Hotel dining room. Who knew?


And steps leading down to the slopes.


But even with a lower base depth than normal the grooming was exemplary, and the finest of the Hokkaido resorts that I've visited.


The slopes were quiet and it was great for Ian and I to find our feet and balance points and then let the skis run.


The Nagamine area was closed but it won't be long before it opens






The Asari Dynamic Course taken from the gondola






Looking back down the Asari Dynamic Course with Powder Zone behind






Hangman is going to need a little bit more snow!






Ian at the top of Asari mountain






At the top gondola station on Asari mountain there is a bell that lovers, newlyweds and married couples ring for good fortune.


This is a shot of my lover Nerys ringing the bell in April 2012






And here's a shot of Ian standing below the bell 'tower' yesterday showing how much snow we can expect to receive this winter.






In the background is the magnificent backcountry area of Mt. Yoichi-dake easily accessible by snowshoe or touring equipment from the top of the gondola.


The record snow depth at the summit of Asari is 580cm from the 2005/06 winter season (the red numbers and line at the top of the tower).


It's coming, starting this weekend :)

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great Mike

What doe the bell ringing signify


Its quite common all over Japan, as Mike says for lovers to ring the bell. You may also see padlocks with little messages scribbled on them at similar locations

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Awesome pics and story line, Mike.

I didn't see the bell when I went there last year due to poor visability. Hope to see it this year.

Looking forward to hearing/seeing more of your adventures of 2013/2014. Good job!

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Awesome pics and story line, Mike.

I didn't see the bell when I went there last year due to poor visability. Hope to see it this year.

Looking forward to hearing/seeing more of your adventures of 2013/2014. Good job!

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0 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ



Actually it was more like -20 cm at MQ with overnight rain washing away what little base there is at my place.


Still it keeps the shovelling down.


It rained all day.








0 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ



The rain turned to snow just before dawn and whilst it came down healthily for a little while, once the sun came out what had fallen at village level quickly melted away.


It's much cooler this evening, with a clear sunset.


It could be icy out there first thing tomorrow if we don't get any snow overnight.

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4 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ



I woke to a decent covering around the house and on the roads, with the snow set in for the day.


Met up with Greg Heptonstall at 10 am and spent the morning in Hirafu helping Greg to get his ski legs for the season.


Continuing the theme from Kiroro a couple of days ago, this is the trail map at the top of the Hirafu Gondola.


Normally by mid-season you can't ski under the sign.






After Tuesday's rain and last night's freeze I wasn't expecting much out of today but I was very pleasantly surprised with today's conditions.


Minimal crunch underneath rapidly accumulating powder.


We skied down to Hanazono 308 for a coffee at 2pm through knee deep untracked powder.


At 308 we bumped into my new neighbour, Crested Butte, Colorado local Susan Mol.


Susan's over for the winter snowboard and ski bumming, and today she was on her skis.


Turns out the very unassuming Susan was 2009 Freeride World Tour Women's Snowboard Champion







Came home at 5pm to 12 cm of dry, light powder on the deck and it's been coming down at a steady 1cm/hr since.


Hirafu and Hanazono should be great tomorrow.

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25 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ



As of today 220 cm (87") has fallen at MQ in Higashiyama



Skied Hirafu and Hanazono with Ian for the first part of the morning and he was really getting a handle on his balance points in deeper snow on his new centre mounted twin tip skis.


It was knee deep with the occasional mid-thigh deep patch of creamy powder. The wind had got at it a little over night.


Great turns to be had.


By 10 am the visibility had gone and the wind had started to pick up.


The grooming in Hirafu and Hanazono was of a poor standard today and with the flat light conditions I was suprised there weren't bodies everywhere.


Met up with Greg at 11am and he and I skied through to day's end.


Got home at 4pm and spent 90 minutes shovelling the wind blown snow around the house.


First big storm of the season.


12 cm has fallen during the day and it's raging out there at the moment.


Some flights into Chitose have been cancelled due to the wind.


Tomorrow could be epic or it could be a windblown suffer fest.


Time will tell.

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34 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ



Spent over an hour clearing the snow from around my cabin this morning and it was worth every second.






Met up with Greg Hep and we lapped the Hirafu Gondola for most of the morning before heading over to Hanazono for a coffee and a red bean (adzuki) croissant.


Got these shots in Hanazono when the snow stopped for 10 minutes and the sun came out, but this was representative of our day from start to finish.


















Greg at day's end under the lights of the season's first 'Nighta' night ski.






Fabulous Niseko powder day with more on the way.


25cm has fallen throughout the day with the promise of more overnight.


Refresh & reset.

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35 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ



The mountain is transforming before our eyes with the off groomed terrain filling in and the tangle of sasa getting buried deeper and deeper below the snow surface.


After a quiet night where the new snow fell straight down, the wind picked up and closed all the lifts above the Center 4 and Hirafu gondola.


This concentrated the Sunday skiers & boarders to a handful of runs but there was still plenty of untracked to go round.


I think it's safe to say that Ian MacKenzie has worked out the centre mounting on his new Armada Pipe Cleaners.


































It hasn't stoppped snowing all day, but in the last hour or so the wind has kicked in with a vengeance.


75 kph winds forecast through until lunchtime tomorrow which could limit lift operation.

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