With the pure adrenaline rush of riding through deep untouched powder, it is easy to forget that this exhilarating experience in the backcountry can quickly turn into a nightmare if you are not prepared.
With Niseko’s liberal stance toward backcountry snowboarding and skiing, YOU are the one who has to make responsible decisions. You must be aware of the risks and dangers associated with an avalanche and backcountry skiing.
Niseko has had its fair share of accidents, largely because more and more people of all skill levels wander into the backcountry.
It is easy to get stranded or lost on the mountain. When venturing into unpatrolled areas, preparation is vital. Never treat backcountry skiing the same way as skiing inbound. And always treat Mother Nature with great respect.
Powderlife has compiled some top tips to keep you safe on the mountain.
1. If the backcountry’s closed, it’s for a reason! Learn and obey the Niseko Rules. They include limiting access to the out-of-bound areas and restricting entry during hazardous conditions. For more details check the course map in this issue.
2. Read and understand weather and avalanche reports posted in Japanese and English at entries and exits to the backcountry. Alternately, check http://niseko.nadare.info/, a site compiled by long-time Niseko backcountry gatekeeper Akio Shinya.
3. Know where the ski patrol is located. Once an incident gets to a certain level, know where to go and who to contact for help.
4. Let someone reliable know where you plan to go, your destination and what time you plan to be home.
5. Explore the backcountry with experienced and reliable people. The least experienced person in the group should still know what to do in case of emergency.
6. Make sure everyone is familiar with equipment, which should include a shovel, beacon, probes, phone, first aid kit, transceiver and studied maps.
7. No-go areas include Yu no Sawa (between Annupuri and Niseko Village), and Haru no Taki (cliff area west of Hirafu). All no-go areas are well sign-posted and marked on maps that can be picked up all over Niseko.
8. We strongly suggest using a qualified guide, especially those who are new to backcountry skiing/snowboarding and to Niseko.
9. Ducking ropes may result in you losing your lift pass.
10. Always remember YOU are responsible for your own decisions and safety.