New Niseko backcountry cat ski operation The House of Powder is this season officially offering locals and early risers a leg-up into the backcountry peaks beyond their terrain.
The House of Powder (THOP) is the exclusive leaseholder of the Chisenupuri ski resort area, on Niseko’s neighbouring peak of Chisenupuri. After giving a few hikers lifts last season, this season they’re officially offering seats on the first run cats to the top of their lease area at around ¥2,000 a ride. That turns a 1 hour hike into an 8 minute ride in warmth and comfort.
From here, hikers can hike further up into the backcountry to the peaks of Chisenupuri and Shakunagedake. Snow lovers taking advantage of this shortcut will be asked to avoid skiing back down the treeless runs of the Chisenupuri piste that are to be saved for tour participants.
Chisenupuri is a popular hike-up spot for backcountry loving locals (check out one epic adventure through these peaks and beyond, featured in our 2017 issue). The local Rankoshi government operated the area as a one-lift ski resort until 2013. The lifts stopped and facilities fell into disrepair until 2016, when local expat business owners bought the lease rights and reinvented Chisenupuri as an innovative cat-ski resort.
Some locals are against any moves to mechanise local mountains. Folks worried that access would be limited for non-paying hikers once cat ski operations began. THOP Marketing Manager for Japan Johnny Noel is keen to dissuade those fears. He’s positive that tour customers and hikers can share the mountain.
“We have locals in mind,” says Johnny. “Locals know where they’re going. They won’t ski down into the Chisenupuri runs, they’ll be going up and back to their favourite spots across these ranges. This is just a leg up, to let locals know they’re welcome and to make it easy for them to get to where they want to go.”
Locals and early risers that get themselves to the Chisenupuri resort will be able to buy a ticket on the spot. They can hitch a ride between 8.30 and 9am as the two dedicated cats warm up for the tour guests each morning.
On the theme of supporting locals, THOP is also planning to run a pre-opening tour at a special discount rate with 100% of proceeds going to local charity. Further details are to be confirmed, but current plans are to bookend the season with a similar charity run at the end of March. Because, as Johnny says, “If you don’t support the community, you have nothing.”
Some of Niseko’s best loved backcountry is at Chisenupuri, in Rankoshi – just next door to the Niseko Annupuri mountain and the Niseko United resorts.
“We want to let the locals know they’re welcome and to make it easy for them to get to where they want to go.”
House of Powder Cat Skiing Tours & Lessons
In its second year of operation this season, THOP offers premium Cat Ski tour packages. Exclusive access to Chisenupuri’s gently rolling, powder-laden terrain is yours for ¥35,000 (approx US$320) per head. Two cats run on constant rotation, so you can get in as many rides as you can handle before sundown.
A minimum of three skilled guides will join every tour and, gauging conditions on the day, take participants to where the best powder stashes can be found. Guests choose between a free-ride cat experience with as many rides as they please, or spend the day with skilled instructors to learn the best techniques for tackling the deep stuff (a day of cat skiing with powder instruction will set you back ¥55,000).
Chefs prepare a freshly cooked hot lunch at the the newly refurbished lodge at the base of the resort. The lodge is your cozy break spot at any time through the day, and should you tire of the snow you can get changed and take a dip in the attached outdoor onsen.
The tour starts and finishes at partner company The House of Machines in Higashiyama (near Niseko Village resort) with espresso coffees in the mornings and apres drinks in the evenings. THOP is now taking bookings for the 2017-18 season online, with opening and closing dates to be confirmed once the snow starts falling.
Find them at thehouseofpowder.com.