Niseko Region

TRIP REPORT With some settled weather forecast for this Sunday, Haidee and I made a dash for Mt. Shakotan (積丹岳, 1,255m). We were only two weeks into a busy start to the academic year, but we needed some time out to get some exercise and refresh the mind. Mt. Shakotan had been hit with 100km/h winds the day before, so the lower areas were strewn with twigs and branches, but beyond the treeline we got some good views and skiing.

Mt. Shakotan Spring Ski Touring 2018 (Hokkaido, Japan)

Three winter seasons ago in December 2015, I attended the Whiteroom Tours Avalanche Awareness two-day course in Niseko (report here). Last week I jumped in for the four-day Avalanche NZ accredited Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance Course. This four-day course focuses on forecasting and route planning based on the four factors in avalanche assessment: snowpack, terrain, weather, and people. The lead Whiteroom Tours and NZMSC’s National Avalanche Forecaster Ronan Maguire again brought the course to life with his experience, knowledge, and passion for the winter hills.

Review of Whiteroom Tours Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance 4-day course (Hokkaido, ...

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake (小喜茂別岳 - 970m) is the little-sibling of the higher Mt. Kimobetsu-dake (喜茂別岳 - 1,177m) further to the north (Mt. Kimobetsu-dake route guide here). Access to Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake is just as easy though, and its mellow slopes are great for those just getting their feet wet in backcountry skiing. Expect a beginner to intermediate slope at the upper end of the route that is perfect for lapping a couple of times before heading down.

Mt. Kokimobetsu-dake Ski Touring (Nakayama Pass, Hokkaido, Japan)

Shakotan Hut provides an excellent base from which to explore peaks such as Mt. Shakotan-dake (積丹岳 – 1,255m) or Mt. Yobetsu (余別岳 – 1,298m) on the Shakotan Peninsula. About 40 minutes from the end of the snow-cleared section of dirt road, this is a public-transport accessible hut, free to use for overnight stays. As far as Hokkaido mountain huts go, it is a luxurious one – running spring water, a kerosene stove, and a large tatami living area. We stayed overnight there for a blue-sky ascent of Mt. Shakotan.

Shakotan Hut and Mt. Shakotan-dake Ski Tour (Hokkaido, Japan)

I hadn’t expected such a grandiose summit at the top of Mt. Mekunnai (目国内岳 – 1,220m). The summit looks pointy from a distance, but we were not prepared for the great frozen mountain of boulders, encrusted in a winter’s worth of wind-blown snow and frost, that greeted us almost out of nowhere. On a good day you'll get grand views along the compact but impressive Niseko Range.

Mt. Mekunnai Ski Tour (Niseko Range, Hokkaido, Japan)

The circuit track around Lake Hangetsu, at the foot of Mt. Yotei, is hardly the place for alpine skis. But with an abundance of bird-life at the trailhead, good views, and just enough elevation gain to make the second half fun, this is a great spot for honing the kick-and-glide […]

Hangetsu Lake Circuit: A fun side-trip on skis

Mt. Chisenupuri (チセヌプリ) is one of the classic Niseko-area backcountry ski locations. At the lower reaches is the Chisenupuri ski area, closed since 2013 (but re-opened for cat-skiing in December 2016). Word on the ground (when we did this trip in December 2016) is that the cat-skiing operation (run by […]

Chisenupuri Ski Area ski touring (near Niseko, Japan)

Since moving to Hokkaido here in northern Japan, I’ve been getting more and more into enjoying the winter backcountry hills here. So, I finally got around to attending a two-day avalanche awareness course, run by Whiteroom Tours in Niseko. Overall it was an extremely professional, thorough course with an instructor […]

Whiteroom Tours Avalanche Awareness Course (Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan)