NISEKO is renowned for its liberal, open-minded stance when it comes to its wide expanse of backcountry. But with that freedom comes the responsibility of the skier or snowboarder, because Niseko’s powder may look soft and friendly, but it is as deadly and dangerous as it is light and fluffy…
Powderlife has collected tips from local experts to help keep you safe out there in Niseko’s backcountry. Just remember, all the equipment and knowledge in the world are no substitute for due caution and common sense.
1. Obey the Niseko Rules
These rules are put in place for a reason, and are listed on the course map in Powderlife magazine and maps and flyers available around town. Read them here.
2. Check weather and avalanche reports
Before venturing out into the backcountry, check the daily local avalanche report at http://niseko.nadare.info. Also check weather reports, so you know what to expect for the day ahead.
3. Listen to and obey ski patrollers
They know what they’re talking about and are there to ensure everybody stays safe.
4. Have essential equipment
Make sure everyone has sufficient safety equipment that works well, which should include a beacon, probe and shovel. More importantly, everyone should know how to work their equipment. A first aid kit, studied maps, torch, transceiver, phone, food, a change of clothes and spare gloves may also come in handy.
5. Plan your trip
Know where you’re going, let someone know when you’re planning to be back, learn the area, and take note of where ski patrol is located in case of emergency.
6. Don’t enter closed gates
If the backcountry gates are closed, they are closed for good reason. It’s this
simple – if the gates are closed or crossed, stay out.
7. No go zones
These include Haru no Taki, and Yu no Sawa, which should not be entered due to high avalanche risks or other dangers. These are well sign-posted and marked on maps available in Powderlife (p26), and on course maps available in town.
8. Don’t duck ropes
These ropes signify the boundary between the safe and the unsafe and should not be ducked or jumped in any case. And know that ski patrollers can and will confiscate your pass if you are doing the wrong thing.
9. Hire a guide
If you don’t have the knowledge or experience for going off-piste, hire a reputable guide. Watch out for cowboys operating with little experience.
10. Explore the backcountry with reliable people
Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The least experienced person should still know what to do in case of emergency.