AFTER years of tirelessly deliberating with the government, national parks and other affiliated parties, Niseko Village will this season finally open the epic Mizuno no Sawa terrain to the public.
Access to the controversial run has been at the centre of debate for years, but this year’s opening will undoubtedly offer 67ha of the best ridable terrain in Niseko.
Mizuno no Sawa is located to the skier’s right of the Niseko Gondola, marked in yellow as ‘Avalanche Control Operation Area’ on this season’s course map.
The much-anticipated run will offer smiles all-round this winter, thanks to its delicious bowl of long, steep and deep terrain, from open walls to tight tree runs, giant mushrooms, fallen trees and natural booters.
Despite huge public pressure to open the terrain within Mizuno no Sawa, it has for years been a ‘no-go zone’, off limits to the public due to avalanche risks and government regulations.
Niseko Village general manager Luke Hurford said the resort would open the run after appropriate snow coverage, and with certain conditions and restrictions.
“If you want to ski or board Mizuno no Sawa you will be allowed access after a 20-minute safety and awareness lecture to give a rundown on the area, dangers, and off-piste safety tips,” he said, adding the area would be governed differently to Niseko United’s backcountry gates system.
“Once you have that understanding and a high enough skill level, one of the ski patrollers will allow a restricted number of skiers and boarders into the area at a particular single entry point.
“This is not a guided tour, but an educational program. After the safety lecture, ski patrol will be there to make sure you enter and exit at the correct points and enjoy the area safely, but will not get in the way of a great ski or ride.”
For continued access throughout the season, skiers and riders can pay ¥2000 for a season pass card once they have attended the safety lecture.
Mizuno no Sawa will only be accessible at certain times of the day, and this will be dependent on the right safety conditions.
Hurford warned that just because the area was open did not mean it was open slather for those who wished to duck ropes instead of entering and exiting correctly.
“It is still very black and white. If you are caught ducking ropes and breaking the rules, the same penalty applies – your pass will be taken,” he said.
Hurford said increased ski patrollers in the area, dynamite blasting, skiers and boarders compacting the slopes, and the public obeying the Niseko Rules should ensure the area is safe to ride this season.
Hurford said the opening of Mizuno no Sawa was a huge step forward for Niseko, adding that success with this project would lead to further terrain expansion at other ski resorts where possible.