Enjoying the backcountry is one thing, but being able to mitigate risk or respond to an emergency situation is quite another.

People love snow for many different reasons. The ice-cold, exhilarating thrill that runs through the mind of anyone deep in the silent ripples of Hokkaido powder is without doubt a very strong one – while adventure, exercise and straight-up fun are others. Some people love snow for its magnificently simple beauty. But one thing that connects us all is the overwhelming force that snow has to humble even the most experienced backcountry rider on a sunny afternoon.

After years of following others into the offpiste (with little more than adrenaline and an excited sense of confidence), it might be time to make a real effort in appreciating the ever-changing mood of the mountain. If every day is a lesson, then the more we ski, the more we know. But if you aren’t blessed with the luxury of a lifetime to absorb that necessary knowledge through experience, then investing in a basic avalanche skills course is an awesome way to make the most of your time in the snow. What’s more is that this opportunity is available to anyone spending time in Niseko, whether on holiday or here for the season.

Several companies in the area run these courses, with the most accessible option being the two-day AST 1. This accredited qualification (formulated by Avalanche Canada) delivers a carefully structured survival kit of theory and experience – and another huge bonus is that it can also serve as a wonderful tour of the local backcountry areas. The first day is based primarily in the classrom with terrain evaluation, weather analysis, snowpack assessment and risk analysis forming the essentials of an intense pen-to-paper learning experience in the morning, followed by an afternoon of companion rescue training. On the second (and final) day of the course, you’ll head into the mountains for real to embrace the previous day’s learnings while studying snowpack, hiking techniques, and the real-life protocols of an emergency situation.

Avalanches are a very real part of freeride skiing or snowboarding wherever you may travel in the world, and beyond the typical backcountry aspirations of faceshots and amazing views for Instagram, the study of them is essential to becoming an accomplished mountain maverick.

TEXT: FAITH ROBINSON
PHOTOS: MARK BARSEVSKIS
APPEARS IN: POWDERLIFE WINTER 2017 EDITION

Japan’s powder offerings are some of the best in the world, and with that, it demands the respect of well-informed riders to safely wonder at the beauty and the bounty available.

If every day is a lesson, then getting ahead in theory means getting to the top of the summit, rather than the classroom.

AST 1 & 2 2017/18 COURSE DATES

Rising Run Guides runs several courses over winter. More info at RisingSunGuides.com.

Avalance Safety Training 1
December 9-10 / 14-15
January 3-4 / 18-19
March 3-4 / 10 & 11

Avalanche Safety Training 2
December 11-14
March 6-9