SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13

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  Thread Started By:   Mike Pow   On:   Monday 19/11/2012 @ 06:32 Show Newest First    
Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #1  SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 19/11/2012 @ 06:32
For 6 of the past 7 years I've been very fortunate to winter in the Shiribeshi subprefecture on the island of Hokkaido, northern Japan.

Shiribeshi has it all - a rugged coastline, mountains, volcanoes, geothermal onsens, rivers, lakes, and marshes, with four distinct seasons all at an agricultural pace of life.

A lift accessed winter season stretching from the end of November through to the first week in May, with an average annual snowfall of 12m. Far from average!

Spring skiing until the end of July most years, followed by cool, dry summers playing golf, walking in the mountains, and swimming in the sea.

And to cap off the year an Autumnal colour show to rival that of New England.

For ski afficiandos this is close to perfect.

Shiribeshi
http://www.shiribeshi.pref.hokkaido.lg.jp/ss/srk/en/index.htm


My previous season reports can be found here:

Hokkaido Snow 2008/09
http://www.goneboarding.co.uk/forum/hokkaido-snow-2008-09/threadid/26816/showthread.aspx

TR : Spring on Hokkaido 2011
http://www.goneboarding.co.uk/forum/tr-spring-on-hokkaido/threadid/36668/showthread.aspx

SR : Hokkaido, Japan 2011/12
http://www.goneboarding.co.uk/forum/sr-hokkaido-japan-2011-12/threadid/37958/showthread.aspx


My home from home this winter is Eggshell cabin in Higashiyama, with views of the Niseko Village area of the Niseko United.

The four connected ski areas of the Niseko United - Niseko Annupuri Kokusai, Niseko Village (formerly Higashiyama), Niseko Hirafu, and Niseko Hanazono - or Niseko as it's known to locals and visitors alike is the most popular area on Hokkaido.

NISEKO RESORT AREA

Niseko United
http://www.niseko.ne.jp/en/

Niseko Annupuri Kokusai
http://annupuri.info/winter/english/

Niseko Village
http://www.niseko-village.com/en/

Niseko Hirafu
http://www.grand-hirafu.jp/winter/en/

Niseko Hanazono
http://www.hanazononiseko.com/en/index.php

In addition there are the two operating but unconnected ski areas of Niseko Moiwa and Niseko Chisenupuri, the cat skiing operation on the former Niseko Weiss Ski Ground, and ski touring opportunities on the closed Niseko Iwanai Kokusai Ski Ground.

Niseko Moiwa
http://niseko-moiwa.jp/

Niseko Chisenupuri
http://www.snowjapan.com/e/resorts/resortdetail.php?resid=219

NAC cat skiing operation at Niseko Weiss Ski Ground
http://www.nisekoskischool.net/activity_winter/private_cat_tour_nac_private_cat_resort.html

Niseko Iwanai Kokusai


But outside of the Niseko Resort Area there is a world of ski areas big and small to excite and beguile.

KUTCHAN

Asahigaoka
http://www.snowjapan.com/e/resorts/resortdetail.php?resid=424
http://www.town.kutchan.hokkaido.jp/town/taiikukan/asahigaoka_ski.jsp


RUSUTSU VILLAGE

Rusutsu
http://en.rusutsu.co.jp/


KIMOBETSU

Nakayama Toge Ski Area
http://www.snowjapan.com/e/resorts/resortdetail.php?resid=208
http://ageimo.com/


AKAIGAWA

Kiroro Snow world
http://www.kiroro.co.jp/en/


OTARU

Asarigawa Onsen Ski Area
http://www.snowjapan.com/e/resorts/resortdetail.php?resid=127
http://www.otaru-asari.co.jp/facility/?c=1&s=4836

Otaru Tenguyama
http://www.snowjapan.com/e/resorts/resortdetail.php?resid=125
http://www.cks.chuo-bus.co.jp/tenguyama/

Snow Cruise Onze
http://www.snowjapan.com/e/resorts/resortdetail.php?resid=209


And just beyond Shiribeshi's border you find the Sapporo resorts of Sapporo Kokusai and Teine.

SAPPORO

Sapporo Kokusai
http://www.sapporo-kokusai.jp/en/

Teine
http://sapporo-teine.com/snow/lang/en/


I hope to get to most of these areas this winter, and travel further afield to Central and Northern Hokkaido.
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #2  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 19/11/2012 @ 07:45
In reply to post #1...
DAY 1 : THURSDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2012

Back on Fantasy Island, and picked up at New Chitose Airport by long time skiing partner Ian MacKenzie.

Great to see him and great to be back.

Just over a week to opening day at Niseko Hirafu in the Niseko United and there's a distinct lack of snow.

Although when I turned in there were a few flurries in the air.



DAY 2 : FRIDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2012

0 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ (Mike's Quarters, in Higashiyama)

Nothing settled at my place but this was Hatsu Yuki (first snow) in Hirafu village for the 2012/13 season.

Local photographer Glen Claydon caught the first flakes on the 360niseko blog

First Snow in Hirafu Village
http://360niseko.com/blog/niseko-snow-report-16-november-2012/

Glen Claydon Photography
http://www.glenclaydon.com/


I took a drive around the area to see where the snow had fallen and to catch the last of the Autumn colours

Haro-no-taki waterfall and permanent closure area between Niseko Village and Niseko Hirafu





Mt Yotei





Mt Iwaonupuri - going to take a lot more snow to cover up those rocks









Mt Annupuri Back Bowls from near Goshiki Onsen





A room with a view - the view to Niseko Village's slopes from MQ (Mike's Quarters in Higashiyama)

MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #3  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 19/11/2012 @ 09:38
In reply to post #2...
DAY 3 : SATURDAY 17 NOVEMBER 2012

0 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


Pulled an all nighter watching Wales lose to Samoa in rugby and then had a relaxing, indoor day avoiding the torrential rain and low lying clouds. Like being back in Wales.

Dinner with Ian M at Niseko Pizza. Great to catch up with Cezar.

T-7 days to Opening Day at Niseko Hirafu.

Not looking good at this stage.




DAY 4 : SUNDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2012

0 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


Woken by the rain at 4am, and then when I roused at 10am the world was white.

A room with a view





I drove to Kutchan to pick up provisions and had a look at Asahigaoka Ski Area









And the nearby shrine and cemetery









Not a bad place to end up. Under metres of snow each winter. A fitting end.

The residents of Kutchan had prepared for the change of seasons. Gardens all over the town are filled with blue teepees.









Their function?

To protect the miniature trees from the heavy snowfalls of winter





I shovelled before I went to Kutchan and I shovelled when I got back.

With no sign of the snow letting up and the mountain transforming every hour I arranged with Glen to make an early start the following morning up to the Ace Hill restaurant in Niseko Hirafu.

Alarm clock set to 5am.
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #4  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 19/11/2012 @ 13:24
Revision #1 (Last edited: 19/11/2012 @ 13:25)
In reply to post #3...
DAY 5 : MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2012

23 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


5am alarm and the snow was still coming down.

It took me longer than I'd anticipated to get my kit together which meant out the door at 5.45 sans breakfast.

A quick brush of the windscreen, windows, and lights and I was on my way to Niseko Hirafu Base area to meet Glen.

The roads were covered in snow but thanks to AWD and winter tyres it was a breeze.

Hirafu Main St

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkEUwMhPDL8&feature=plcp


I waited until 6.45 for Glen to show and then set off up the mountain on my own in the blue before sunrise.

Skinned pretty much straight up the front face of Niseko Hirafu - Alpen to Green run to the top of the King Quad Lift #2 and then the Beginners Access run to the Ace Hill rest house.

Skin track on Green run





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKb2yid13Rk&feature=plcp



The thermometer on Ace Hill





With the anticpated Opening Day date for 2012, November 23rd





I dropped the black run straight off Ace Hill into Furiko under clear skies. The snow was consistent, light, and surprisingly deep.

Looking back up at the first tracks made on Niseko Hirafu this winter





Before dropping the next section of Furiko on a whim I shouted out for Glen and got an answer.

He'd set his alarm for 5 but had woken at 6.30am. He hadn't slept through, he'd set it for 5pm!

I skinned across to my first skin track and we made our way back to Ace Hill, Glen on the bootpack slog fest in up to 50cm of unconsolidated powder.

Yours truly skinning up Green run





Unfortunately by the time Glen got to Ace Hill the sunshine had disappeared and it had started snowing again.

Glen getting ready to go









Yours truly ready to go





We took the same route down as on my first lap, but ran the sasa (bamboo) line and got the goods

Yours truly letting it go on Furiko - Take 1









Yours truly letting it go on Furiko - Take 2





Glen letting it go on Furiko













Yours truly letting it go on Furiko - Take 3









How does it make you feel?





Then we put the cameras away and cruised Green run on to Alpen

Glen back at base after a great morning





Best first turns of the season at Hirafu for both of us. Nothing like face shots first time out.

T-4 days to Opening Day and things are looking up.
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Shinmen
Posts: 145
Merseyside
  #5  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 19/11/2012 @ 20:31
In reply to post #4...
Amazing thread Mike. I would love to make it out there in the next few years. Your reports are not helping my patience though! I look forward to the next update.
Never believe anything until it is officially denied
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #6  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 20/11/2012 @ 00:43
In reply to post #5...
Thanks Shinmen.

Everyone should try Hokkaido at least once in their snow riding life.
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #7  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 20/11/2012 @ 03:31
In reply to post #6...
DAY 5 : UPDATE

Glen had his Ion camera with him yesterday and took this footage of our first Hirafu turns this season

http://vimeo.com/53907303


You can see more of Glen's words, photography and movies at 360niseko

http://360niseko.com/blog/



And if you're visiting Niseko this winter and want your memories captured forever, get in touch with Glen.

He's based in Rhythm Snowsports on Hirafu-zaka (the road heading up to the Alpen Base area) and offers professional images in digital and print formats and fully edited movies of your time in the Niseko Resort Area.

Last January Glen took the stills to accompany the Hokkaido segment in this season's Warren Miller movie 'Flow State'. So he has form.

Glen Claydon Photography
http://www.glenclaydon.com/
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #8  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 20/11/2012 @ 05:46
In reply to post #7...
DAY 6 : TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2012

1 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ

A light dusting overnight that melted off quite quickly in the early morning sun.

My next door neighbour's son Kye built this impressive snowman the first hour or so we had snow on Sunday. Now that's dedication.





Autumn is making it's last stand today, but every thirty minutes or so winter charges in.

The tap has been turned on

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mQNTCinWts&feature=plcp


Opening day on Friday is looking better by the hour.
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #9  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 21/11/2012 @ 06:35
In reply to post #8...
DAY 7 : WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2012

24 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


Solo mission up Niseko Hirafu today.

Unfortunately I missed Glen and couldn't take the ION camera up with me.

The grooming crew had groomed a single track from the new Alpen Base Area building right up to Ace Hill. Made skinning up the mountain so much easier.

And more importantly the track was all compacted snow with no grass, sasa, or rocks poking through.

Just before I got to the King Bell restaurant plateau six workers on the Hirafu lift crew went skiing and boarding by.

They'd run the lifts so they could get a couple of 'product testing' laps. There was snow flying everywhere.

Then I passed the grooming crew heading up to flatten lower Rinkan and Jumbo.

Niseko Hirafu Grooming Crew

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHd8Jb5v_js&feature=plcp



24 at the door, and up on Ace Hill? A little bit more!





84 cm base depth at Ace Hill. Not bad for 3 days.

I dropped in off Ace Hill and immediately sank to my waist without bottoming out to grass. And that's 104 cm for me.

Then it was turn after turn with the snow billowing all around me and cascading over my shoulders.

But as I hit the lower mountain the snow got too deep / the slope got too mellow (depends on your viewpoint) and it was straight running and poling to get to the groomed track.

The last pitch down to the Alpen base area was effortless and floaty, and I was up and down in 90 minutes.

With cold temps and a little more snow forecast, tomorrow will be great. And Opening Day on Frday even better.

But I'll be heading out of town tomorrow for Opening Day at Kiroro.
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #10  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 22/11/2012 @ 10:32
Revision #1 (Last edited: 22/11/2012 @ 10:39)
In reply to post #9...
DAY 8 : THURSDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2012

11 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


Glorious drive over to Kiroro this morning.

Sunshine, blue skies, white clouds, but I pulled in to the car park to see no lifts turning.

I walked into the main area and it was a ghost town.

Opening Day is tomorrow. Doh!

Still better that than being 'a day late and a buck short'

Snow coverage top to bottom with the groomers making the pistes perfect for tomorrow.

Rather than drive back home I went to the seaside instead.

Drove to Iwanai and then down the coast towards Suttsu before heading back inland on the Rankoshi road.

Snow has fallen at sea level this winter, but the warmer temperatures and sunshine of the past couple of days has melted it all away.

But there'll be plenty of opportunity to see snow on the beach in December and January.

On the way in to Iwanai town there's a beautiful temple set above the road with wonderful views of the ocean, the defunct Niseko Iwanai Kokusai Ski Area and its peak Iwanai-dake.

Kikoin Temple, Iwanai









Golden Statue at Kikoin Temple





A decorated statue with Niseko Iwanai Kokusai Ski Area in the background





The guardians of the Temple
















The ski area looked good in the sunshine but it's going to take a few more storms before the cut runs fill in.

Iwanai port with the snowcapped mountains of the Shakotan Peninsula









Iwanai coastline with the snowcapped mountains of the Shakotan Peninsula





The black sands of Cape Raiden





Tomorrow is Opening Day at Niseko Hirafu.

Here's a little blast from the past, Opening Day for the 2008/09 winter. Groundhog Day?


Saturday 22 November 2008

Plans to get first chair went out of the window when I woke at 7:45 and I got to the bottom of the Ace Quad just as Glen was being whisked up the hill on first chair. Good effort son.

It was odd to ride the chair after hiking these past weeks and to see tracks plural as opposed to my solitary line on the mountain.

I honestly didn't think we'd have opening day earlier in the week, and I'm still amazed that 3 solid days of snowfall was all it took to get the lifts turning.

I picked up my season pass yesterday which was a big improvement on the debacle last season when the season pass office opened at 8:20 on opening day.

And when I got to the Ace Hill I was met with a very unexpected surprise. Patrol and the grooming crew had opened the hill back down to the base of the quad.

I've been very critical of the Grand Hirafu mountain ops but today they exceeded my expectations. Kudos.

And the conditions?

Best opening day I've had. The snow was deep, light, consistent and with very few people on the hill there was plenty of pow to go round.

Even the sun made an appearance for 15 mins or so.

Rode with Wild Bill's barman Ben Gillespie for the morning and had a blast. It was great to put the laps in.

Ben launching off the summer access road





----------

Here's hoping that tomorrow brings the same. Or better
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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xplayerx
Posts: 39
Kent
  #11  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 22/11/2012 @ 12:24
In reply to post #7...
Loving the daily updates Mike! Great Reading and good pics. Can't wait to get back on the snow!
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #12  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 22/11/2012 @ 13:37
In reply to post #11...
Thanks xplayerx
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #13  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 23/11/2012 @ 11:08
Revision #1 (Last edited: 24/11/2012 @ 08:30)
In reply to post #12...
DAY 9 : FRIDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2012

1 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


Well I got it right today!

OPENING DAY AT NISEKO HIRAFU

The morning started off sunny and clear with a decent crowd waiting patiently at the Ace Quad for the 8.30 am dash.

Young and old, seasonal workers and locals, British, Australians, French, Americans and Japanese













And they're off, with the veteran showing how it's done!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKWb2DqdG9s&feature=plcp



Lisa from Nisade all smiles





The Niseko Hirafu mascot was in attendance too





And within minutes of the first chair heading up the sun disappeared and the snow started coming down.

The runs available today were Center off the Ace Pair Lift #3, and Kokutai, Green & Alpen off the Ace Quad Lift #2 Center 4.

A decent amount of terrain considering the mountain was grass five days ago.

The groomed runs were soft and springy and the ungroomed snow was knee to waist deep powder with tracks filling in each run.

I met up with Nikki Langley who arrived in the village last night.

Nikki and I worked together at Camp Echo in NY state and it was he who convinced me to spend the 2005/06 winter at Keystone, Colorado where we shared an apartment.

He's in Hirafu for his first Hokkaido winter, working at the rental & servicing shop for NBS.

Nikki seeing what all the fuss is about and helping to cover the sasa





















Great to see you Nikki and great timing.





The snow stopped around 1 and it's been cold and clear since.

Hopefully more terrain will become available tomorrow.
MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #14  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 24/11/2012 @ 11:05
In reply to post #13...
DAY 10 : SATURDAY 24 NOVEMBER 2012

14 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


NISEKO : THE NEXT GENERATION

New snow overnight had filled in most of yesterday's tracks and made previously closed runs doable today.

Still just Ace Quad Lift #2 Center 4 and Ace Pair Lift #3 chairs open but when the day ticket costs a mere JPY 2,000 (15 quid; 19 euros; US$ 24) and the snow is already as good as many places get on their best days of the season there can really be no complaints.

Today I had the pleasure of skiing Niseko Hirafu with two of Niseko's up & comers, 9-year old skier Kai Martin and and 11-year old boarder Conrad Mitchell.

Both live year round in Niseko and both try to get out on the mountain as much as possible. School gets in the way a bit though.

Kai doing the Sasa Slalom in to lower Onsenzawa













Conrad airing in to and out of lower Onsenzawa





















Kai getting air below the Ace Hill restaurant













And skiing it out





Conrad getting air below the Ace Hill restaurant

















We dropped in to Konayuki and the boys were popping off the snow covered rocks and rollers with ease but unfortunately I ballsed up the videoing.

Hopefully I'll have another chance this winter to catch them in full flight.

Conrad and Kai back at base

MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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Mike Pow
Posts: 1461
Mid Glamorgan
  #15  Re: SR : Shiribeshi Stories, Hokkaido 2012/13  Posted 25/11/2012 @ 12:12
In reply to post #14...
DAY 11 : SUNDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2012

7 cm in the past 24hrs at MQ


After getting to sleep at 4am from watching Wales get thrashed by New Zealand in rugby and waking at 8.30 am, I missed the bluebird powder start to the day that hopefully some caught and captured for posterity.

Afer all, November bluebird powder mornings are as rare as unicorns in the Niseko Resort Area.

7cm of fresh, superlight powder around my house, between 15-20 cm up on the mountain.

Ready to go at 9.45 and I bumped into Nikki and two of his housemates, James from Wellington, New Zealand and Lee from Quebec, Canada.

The four of us rode together for a couple of hours, never really catching the sunshine at its brightest.

We found a little pow though.

Thanks for your patience guys & gal.

Nikki riding under the Ace Pair Lift #3 chair













James riding under the Ace Pair Lift #3 chair









Lee getting deep in Konayuki (Powder Snow)





And once we found the goods in Konayuki, we lapped it up.

Nikki flying in Konayuki





Lee flying in Konayuki





Nikki going deep in Konayuki









James going deep and spinning in Konayuki













James the Wraith





Lee getting down & up in Konayuki









Nikki breaking on through





And to top off an excellent day, the moon rising over Mt Yotei

MIKE RICHARDS
From the plow to the pow for 10 years now
CSIA (Canada) Level 2 Ski Instructor
PSIA (United States) Level 2 Ski Instructor
Canadian Avalanche Association Level 1 - Ski Operations
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