Look out below! Clearing snow is something of a daily chore here in Niseko. Image:: Matt Wiseman/Niseko Photography & Guiding
Mountainwatch | Matt Wiseman
Heli-skiing and Alaska, Perisher and Lil Orbits, Japan and January… Iconic duos of the ski world, the last of which can be enjoyed right now. Japanuary, as they say, is well and truly underway with cumulative snowfall now in the double digits at a whopping 10 metres.
While snow God Ullr had a big New Years and took the first few days of 2018 off, we were treated to 10cm on the 6th followed by 33cm on the 7th. The weather then took a turn for the worse and it rained on the 9th below 1000m which is why my camera is sitting in a container of rice next to me as I type this… On a more positive note, it hasn’t stopped snowing since and the last few days have largely been spent in the proverbial powder room.
While Niseko reported 10cm on the 6th of January, it’s safe to say nearby Kiroro ski resort got a little more… Image:: Juan Garcia Barros/Niseko Photography & Guiding
Following the rain event on the 9th, strong North Westerly winds hammered the region, heavily loading South East slopes. The avalanche report from the following day unsurprisingly noted an extremely high avalanche risk, citing a 60cm wind slab and as such the so-called ‘gates’ to access the Niseko sidecountry and back bowls remained shut for the day.
However, the snow bonded surprisingly well and quickly and those that ventured out the gates these last few days were treated to some of the better turns of the season (which is saying a lot). Beta reports from some of the other guides here at Niseko Photography and Guiding can attest to such. Lead Backcountry guide Zach Paley mentioned on the 12th, that it was, “bottomless and waist deep out of Gate 4, even late into the day.”
An hour and a half from Niseko you’ll find Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort and turns like this. Image:: Charlotte Workman/Niseko Photography & Guiding
YES. Image:: Charlotte Workman/Niseko Photography & Guiding
Then on the 13th of January conditions aligned like you wouldn’t believe with 20cm falling in the village and more like 40cm+ was waiting up at the peak. The best bit? The sun finally showed itself and we were treated to the first true bluebird powder day of the season. If you were lucky and/or clever enough to stumble upon the wind stashes, face shots of the lightest, driest Hokkaido crystal you can imagine weren’t hard to find.
Don’t feel like hiking for your turns? Why not take a few hot pow laps under the Gondola? Image:: Charlotte Workman/Niseko Photography & Guiding
If all goes to plan the next few weeks should look something like this… Image:: Charlotte Workman/Niseko Photography & Guiding
Whilst Japanuary weather can be notoriously difficult to predict more than a few days out, most reports indicate a number of systems inbound for Niseko. Whilst writing, more than 5cm has fallen outside my home in downtown Kutchan so I expect by tomorrow, the mountain will have completely reset itself. By the time lifts start spinning, we can also expect the sun to make a brief appearance so get out there early if you’re lucky enough to be here. Another 12 hours of sunshine on Wednesday the 17th will be just enough time to work on your goggle tan before another system moves in on the 18th.
Nearly time to break out the snorkel. Image:: Juan Garcia Barros/Niseko Photography & Guiding
Looking even further ahead and there appears to be a lot of activity sweeping through Europe and Eastern Russia presently, fingers crossed that continues eastward and we can truly break out the snorkels…
Stay safe out there and see you on the hill!
All smiles and soft landings over here. Image:: Piotrek Drzastwa/Niseko Photography & Guiding