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Niseko Avy Bulletin

Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan Avalanche Bulletin.

Avy Bulletin Update

Eddie Schoen

Hey everyone, I’m really sorry about my absence with the bulletin these past couple of weeks. The comments and messages I have received have been amazing, it’s great to know that this has been helpful for you all this season! Sadly, it looks like I will be discontinuing the bulletin for the rest of this season. I have left my job in Niseko and have been traveling around other parts of Hokkaido. I have been running around trying to figure out the rest of my season and I have decided to move on to bigger, whiter pastures where I can readily find IPAs and tacos ;) … I’m talking about a little place called Asssspen. Well, really just Colorado in general. And then Canada. And then Alaska.

I plan to be back next year and would love to turn this into a slightly more official, unofficial Niseko forecast. If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out!

Stay safe out there and enjoy this magical place. Please continue to share conditions and observations on the various facebook groups. If I can leave you with one thing, I hope I’ve encouraged a little more openness and sharing of information within the community.

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Friday, January 18th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): CONSIDERABLE

  • Mid (800-1000m): CONSIDERABLE

  • Lower (<800m): MODERATE

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Likely | Size: small-medium

  • Glide Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: medium

Comments

I’ve been deliberating all evening whether to peg tomorrow’s danger level at HIGH or CONSIDERABLE. I’m going with CONSIDERABLE, but as I’ve said before it becomes a game of semantics at this point. The current storm is coming in strong, with heavy winds and some moist snowfall. With nearly no visibility across the area today, it’s hard to say what’s going on up high. My guess is that conditions are ripe for wind slab problems on any exposed slopes and ridge lines. Cornices and drifts are likely growing rapidly and may be collapsing naturally if they haven’t already. We may very well have a fair bit of naturally occurring avalanche activity in our upper elevation zones already and not even know about it. Bottom line… we have limited information about snowpack stability in alpine terrain right now. Weather conditions are textbook for creating avalanche problems. No matter how magically stable we might believe Hokkaido’s snowpack to be, that’s enough uncertainty for me to take a big step back and stick to schralping fresh pow down low in the trees.

Also avoid skiing near existing glide cracks. The slabs below them may be primed to release under the added stress of new snow.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Thursday, January 17th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): CONSIDERABLE

  • Mid (800-1000m): CONSIDERABLE

  • Lower (<800m): MODERATE

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Likely | Size: small-medium

  • Glide Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: medium

Comments

Today’s hazard level may have been a bit overstated as we did not see as much snow as I was expecting. However, forecasts are still calling for pretty good dump tonight and throughout the day tomorrow, so the hazard level will remain at CONSIDERABLE at the mid and upper elevations, and MODERATE down low.

Surface instabilities remain the primary concern, specifically wind slab problems on exposed and wind affected slopes. Many areas had a firm surface prior to this storm coming due to either solar exposure or wind affect, which will increase the likelihood of triggering surface slabs.

Also avoid skiing near existing glide cracks. The slabs below them may be primed to release under the added stress of new snow.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Wednesday, January 16th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): CONSIDERABLE

  • Mid (800-1000m): CONSIDERABLE

  • Lower (<800m): MODERATE

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Likely | Size: small-medium

  • Glide Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: medium

Comments

OK folks, finally, we are back to our regularly scheduled program of dumping Hokkaido powder. However, this comes at the cost of rapidly increasing avalanche hazard. Don’t let the powder fever lead you to making poor decisions out there. We all make mistakes, it’s part of being human. That’s why we carry avalanche rescue gear ANYTIME we are outside of controlled, inbounds terrain. However, there is such a thing as bad decisions when it comes to skiing and riding avalanche terrain. Most of the time you get away with it. Every once in a while you don’t. So be conservative and make informed decisions. If you do make a poor decision and see something, please share it on the Hokkaido Backcountry Obs facebook group. We can all learn collectively from each other’s mis-judgements. The more we share the stories of our close calls, near misses, and accidents the more educated we all can be. Sharing information is powerful and we’ve been working hard to build a platform where that can be done safely and free from judgement.

Problems to look out for tomorrow are primarily surface instabilities in the freshly fallen storm snow. Winds are kicking up as the storm moves in, so any wind deposited snow on steep and unsupported terrain features should be treated as suspect. Look for obvious signs of wind drifted snow above and below you. A fresh load on the existing snowpack may stress existing glide crack slabs to the point of failure. Several big glide slabs have avalanched on S and E aspects this past week, and many similar cracks are still lurking. Avoid skiing below known glide crack areas. Additionally, be alert to storm slab development on lower elevation slopes that have seen some sun and warmer temps. We had a brief period of rain here in Hirafu this evening, so also be on the search for any buried rain crusts.

Hazard level tomorrow will be at CONSIDERABLE for mid and upper elevations, MODERATE at the low elevations. Stay safe, stay warm, and enjoy the freshies.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Tuesday, January 15th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): LOW

  • Mid (800-1000m): LOW

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Storm Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small-medium

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: small-medium

  • Glide Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: medium-large

Comments

Forecast models are indicating that our next wave of snowfall should be kicking into action tomorrow afternoon/evening. Assuming we wake up to little or no fresh snowfall, the danger level will be at LOW for most of the day. Hazard levels will be increasing as the flakes start to hit the ground, so be alert to significant new snow accumulation (ie, > 6” or 20cm). Many slopes have been either wind polished or sun baked leaving them firm and unlikely to bond as well as usual to a fresh coat of storm snow.

Expect hazard levels to increase rapidly to either MODERATE or even CONSIDERABLE as the next storm cycle sets in. Aside from slide potential within the storm snow layer, keep in mind that new snowfall will stress and place a new load on existing snowpack structures. If there are wind slabs, or even more likely, glide slabs primed to slide, this storm could set off some large natural avalanches. Unless you are extremely confident in your terrain assessment skills, I recommend sticking to the trusty old rules of thumb and giving the storm snow 24-48 hours to settle out before venturing into backcountry terrain. This includes side country terrain access out of resort gates. There is no distinction!

I don’t expect too much new snow until later tomorrow, however, be alert to a surprise early dump.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Monday, January 14th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): LOW

  • Mid (800-1000m): LOW

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: small-medium

  • Glide Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: medium-large

Comments

Generally safe avalanche conditions today. As always, be on the lookout for isolated problems such as wind slabs, overhanging cornices, and glide cracks. There have been two glide slab avalanches observed in the past week. Both were size D2.0 and released naturally. LOW danger does not mean there is no danger. Carry proper avalanche safety gear if you are outside of resort boundaries.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Sunday, January 13th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): LOW

  • Mid (800-1000m): LOW

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: small-medium

  • Glide Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: medium-large

Comments

Generally safe avalanche conditions today. As always, be on the lookout for isolated problems such as wind slab formation or overhanging cornices. LOW danger does not mean there is no danger. Carry proper avalanche safety gear if you are outside of resort boundaries.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Saturday, January 12th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): MODERATE

  • Mid (800-1000m): MODERATE

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small-medium

  • Glide Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: medium-large

Comments

Winds seem to be decreasing today and will be shifting to more of a Northerly direction for tomorrow. Be alert to shifting wind patterns and where those winds may be depositing snow that could form into a dangerous wind slab. Have a look at the bulletins from the last couple of days for more discussion on wind and glide slabs. We still have a few days ahead of mostly settled weather.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Friday, January 11th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): MODERATE

  • Mid (800-1000m): MODERATE

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small-medium

  • Glide Slab | Likelihood: Unlikely | Size: medium-large

Comments

Continued winds and visible blowing snow off of upper elevation ridges today mean that wind slabs and cornices are continuing to develop. I don’t want to go on ranting about wind slabs, however, I will say that you may encounter them in somewhat unexpected areas after the wind event we have seen over the last 48 hours.

A sizeable glide slab avalanche was observed today on a south facing aspect on Shiribetsu. The release likely occurred overnight and in a known problem spot. Additional glide cracks and releases noted on south and east facing aspects near Kiroro. I am adding glide slabs to the problem list for tomorrow, mainly since there’s little else to talk about ;). In all seriousness we are seeing some sunny skies combined with continued wind loading, adding new stresses and changes to the snowpack, which could contribute to existing glide cracks releasing and avalanching. If you see a glide crack, or know where one exists, it will be best to avoid skiing or riding underneath it. Best to avoid riding into one as well, I doubt it will be a pleasant experience. Visibility shouldn’t be too much of an excuse the next few days either.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Thursday, January 10th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): MODERATE

  • Mid (800-1000m): MODERATE

  • Lower (<800m): MODERATE

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small-medium

Comments

With clearing weather and some high pressure in the region, our avalanche hazard is decreasing slightly back down to MODERATE. Storm slabs should be settled out, however, wind slabs are still a real concern. There was a partial burial due to a skier triggered wind slab in the Goshiki area this week. This tells us that they are lurking and will run big enough to bury, injure, or kill a person (ie, size D2.0). Use caution on, above, and below wind affected slopes. How do you know if a slope is wind affected? First of all, take an avalanche safety course to learn about specific avalanche problems and how to deal with each one. To refresh… there are some tell-tale signs of wind affected snow. First, if you see snow plumes blowing off of ridgelines, the snow below that ridgeline is going to be wind loaded. Look for clues on the snow surface (changing textures, changing hardness, etc). If you are traveling through powder snow and all of the sudden realize that the snow changes to a much firmer, denser feeling, sometimes even hard like a crust… you likely just found yourself on top of a wind slab. Stop, re-assess your options, and choose low angle terrain (below 32 degrees) if you are unsure.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Wednesday, January 9th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): CONSIDERABLE

  • Mid (800-1000m): CONSIDERABLE

  • Lower (<800m): MODERATE

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Storm Slab | Likelihood: Likely | Size: small-medium

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Likely | Size: small-medium

Comments

Quite a few observations coming in today of both human triggered and natural slab avalanches, up to size 2.0, around the Niseko area. Several storm slab releases reported on West aspects, across a range of elevation bands. Naturally triggered size 1.0 around 500m and a skier triggered size 1.0 around 1,200m. There is also a report of a skier triggered, wind slab avalanche that caught and partially buried at least one member of the party. Today is a great reminder… statistically, most avalanche accidents occur on days when the hazard rating is in the MODERATE to CONSIDERABLE zone.

This is exactly where we will be tomorrow. Let’s look at the wording associated with the CONSIDERABLE hazard rating. The travel advice and likelihood are pretty spot on for what I expect tomorrow:

‘Dangerous snowpack conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route finding, and conservative decision making are essential. Natural avalanches are possible, and human triggered avalanches are likely.’

The size and distribution, however, is a bit exaggerated for what we can likely expect:

‘small avalanches in many areas, or large avalanches in specific areas, or very large avalanches in isolated areas.’

However, the size and distribution wording for the MODERATE hazard rating is probably more in line with our current conditions:

‘small avalanched in specific areas, or large avalanches in isolated areas.’

So, are we at MODERATE or CONSIDERABLE? Quite frankly, it’s a game of semantics at this point. There are several algorithms that I use to calculate a danger rating, including matching up my expectations with the wording in the danger scale. I walk through all of these methods every day, compare the results, and ultimately make a judgement call on what seems most appropriate. Bottom line is, avalanche activity was occurring today. Both due to wind slabs (on higher, exposed slopes) and storm slabs (in more sheltered areas). Both winds and fresh snowfall (stresses on the snowpack) will likely be continuing overnight and throughout the day. Storm slabs may begin to settle out, or they may become even less stable. Wind slabs will remain unstable.

Please familiarize yourself with the danger rating scale. You can find some great information on it here

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Tuesday, January 8th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): MODERATE

  • Mid (800-1000m): MODERATE

  • Lower (<800m): MODERATE

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Likely | Size: small-medium

  • Loose Dry | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small

Comments

Not a lot of new snow since yesterday here in Hirafu, but enough to continue loading wind affected terrain features. Hazard level and problems remain unchanged from yesterday… So here’s yesterday’s bulletin:

We’ve had a few reports of larger (size 1.5) windslabs occurring in higher elevation, exposed terrain. Hard to ascertain from photos whether these events were true wind slab releases or just collapsing drifts/cornices. One seemed to be natural, the other likely skier triggered. These were on S and E aspects, respectively. Tomorrow’s hazard level will remain at MODERATE. The primary concern is wind slab avalanches, which could occur in wind affected, mid and high elevation terrain. Winds are expected to remain on the calmer side throughout the day, but increasing during the pm and into Tuesday and Wednesday. Be alert not only to the terrain below you that you want to ski, but also to what lurks above. Avoid getting underneath large, overhanging drifts and cornices. As a general rule of thumb if you don’t have visibility on the terrain above you and it is steeper than 30 degrees, then do not travel near or underneath it.

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Monday, January 7th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): MODERATE

  • Mid (800-1000m): MODERATE

  • Lower (<800m): MODERATE

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Likely | Size: small-medium

  • Loose Dry | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small

Comments

We’ve had a few reports of larger (size 1.5) windslabs occurring in higher elevation, exposed terrain. Hard to ascertain from photos whether these events were true wind slab releases or just collapsing drifts/cornices. One seemed to be natural, the other likely skier triggered. These were on S and E aspects, respectively. Tomorrow’s hazard level will remain at MODERATE. The primary concern is wind slab avalanches, which could occur in wind affected, mid and high elevation terrain. Winds are expected to remain on the calmer side throughout the day, but increasing during the pm and into Tuesday and Wednesday. Be alert not only to the terrain below you that you want to ski, but also to what lurks above. Avoid getting underneath large, overhanging drifts and cornices. As a general rule of thumb if you don’t have visibility on the terrain above you and it is steeper than 30 degrees, then do not travel near or underneath it.

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Sunday, January 6th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): MODERATE

  • Mid (800-1000m): MODERATE

  • Lower (<800m): MODERATE

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Storm Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small-medium

  • Loose Dry | Likelihood: Likely | Size: small

Comments

After some small dumpage overnight, we were treated to some sunny skies this morning around Kutchan and Hirafu. As forecasted, heavier snowfall resumed in the pm and has been intermittent. Tomorrow’s hazard level will be at MODERATE. Most likely we will see plenty of loose dry/sluffing on steep features. Less likely, but certainly a possibility and more consequential will be storm slab formation on steep, unsupported features. Be especially alert on solar aspects at lower and mid elevations. Last night’s snowfall got some sun and warmer temps today, which could be conducive to slab formation when combined with tonight and tomorrow’s expected storm snow. As always, be on the lookout for wind slab formation on higher and exposed elevations.

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Saturday, January 5th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): LOW

  • Mid (800-1000m): LOW

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Loose Dry | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small

Comments

Tomorrow’s avalanche hazard rating will remain at LOW, however be alert to changing conditions. After a few days of high pressure, it looks like we’re heading into the next storm cycle beginning tonight. The heaviest snow should be hitting late in the day and into the pm tomorrow. If heavy snow starts falling sooner than forecasted, then expect the danger to increase. We’ll likely be back into the MODERATE or CONSIDERABLE zone by Sunday if these storms deliver as forecasted.

Limited, but targeted observations today indicated that we have not had any significant surface hoar development overnight. So that’s good. There are already some glide cracks opening up, notably at around 1,000m on the Annupuri East Ridge. I haven’t personally had eyes on that one, but our guides have seen a person completely overhead in the hole. I observed a smaller one at 950m on the Annupuri West Face, still big enough to mess you up if you were to ski into it. Think the size of a couple adjacent snowpits. Be wary as fresh snows come in and start to cover these cracks up.

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Friday, January 4th

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): LOW

  • Mid (800-1000m): LOW

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Loose Dry | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small

Comments

Generally LOW avalanche hazard still expected for tomorrow. Observations are revealing a strong, right-side-up snowpack across the Niseko area. The surface snow from our New Year storm is not showing any real indications of slab formation. I was able to cut a few small, isolated storm slabs loose yesterday, but only on the steepest sections of the Annupuri West Ridge/Back Bowl. If you find yourself venturing into untracked snow on very steep slopes, proceed with caution. As always, remain alert to terrain features that could be harboring isolated snowpack characteristics such as wind slabs.

Keep an eye out for areas that may develop surface hoar crystals overnight. If you observe these sparkly, feathery crystals on the surface, please share the observation here. While not an immediate problem, if these do form and go undisturbed, then go onto get buried with a fresh sheet of snow tomorrow night and through Saturday, it could be a problematic layer. So, let us know if you see it out there and please note the general location, approximate elevation, and slope aspect. Additionally, it is helpful to know where you did NOT see any surface hoar. Thanks ya’ll!

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Thursday, January 3rd

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): LOW

  • Mid (800-1000m): LOW

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Loose Dry | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small

Comments

Generally LOW avalanche hazard expected for tomorrow. Observations are revealing a strong, right-side-up snowpack across the Niseko area. The surface snow from our New Year storm is not showing any real indications of slab formation. I was able to cut a few small, isolated storm slabs loose today, but only on the steepest sections of the Annupuri West Ridge/Back Bowl. If you find yourself venturing into untracked snow on very steep slopes, proceed with caution. As always, remain alert to terrain features that could be harboring isolated snowpack characteristics such as wind slabs.

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Wednesday, January 2nd

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): MODERATE

  • Mid (800-1000m): LOW

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Dry Loose | Likelihood: likely | Size: small

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small-medium

Comments

One of my ski partners today summed it up pretty well: ‘That was the best thing I’ve ever skied!!’ Hope you all enjoyed the New Years Day freshies as much as we did. Allow me to share my ponderings on the backcountry avalanche hazard to ring in the new year. . . my personal observations, as well as those from a couple other colleagues indicate that the hazard level is trending downward. However, the data set is so limited, that I can’t confidently say that the overall danger level is actually dropping. I think we are still clearly in the MODERATE range, though trending toward to lower end. We’re in the middle of a storm cycle currently, with the heaviest snowfall amounts forecasted for tomorrow afternoon and evening. Expect sluffing, or dry loose avalanches, to occur on steep terrain. These are likely to be small and relatively harmless, but could knock a skier or rider off their feet unexpectedly. I’m still on the look out for wind slab problems on high, steep, exposed slopes. These may be buried under recent storm snow.


Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Tuesday, January 1st

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): MODERATE

  • Mid (800-1000m): LOW

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small-medium

Comments

Today was a beauty of a day to wrap up 2018. About as close to bluebird as we can ask for around here! I know I wasn’t the only one who got sucker punched into skiing off the top of something today. I observed quite a few parties skiing the South facing bowls off of Iwaonupuri. I saw at least one other party on the summit of Annupuri as well. However, up high, the weather deteriorated quickyl mid-day. Winds were not too bad and I did not observe too much snow transport, but visibility went down to pretty much nothing. Lines were pushed into more aggressive terrain today, and no avalanche activity was observed (as far as I could tell around Goshiki at least). To be clear, I’m not going to say whether or not I think that was a good idea. My goal with this bulletin is to provide information and keep it as free from bias and judgement as I can. I will say that just below loaded ridgelines, I observed signs of definite wind slab formation, but (with a very limited sample set), I saw no reactivity with slope cuts and travel by several skiers. The snowpack structure near those exposed ridgelines is not excellent, but it is also not as good as it could be. Testing seems to indicate that is is a strong snowpack nonetheless. I’m dropping my hazard level forecast for tomorrow down to LOW for lower and mid elevations. The highest elevations remain at a MODERATE level of avalanche hazard. The main concern will be windslabs up high.

If you also read the Niseko Avalanche Information report, you may be alerted to the possibility of persistent slab problems on lower elevation, solar aspects. I have not personally found evidence of this problem. We did have some weather events a week or so back that may have created a nice sliding surface for the recent storm accumulation. Where I suspect this may be most relevant is the ‘Forbidden Areas.’ There aren’t many other wild steep, south facing slopes to be skied at that elevation in the area. I respect the ‘Niseko Rules’ and encourage you all to as well. As such, I have no observations on that terrain. My main goal with this bulletin is to disseminate unbiased information to help you all make you own decisions out there in the backcountry. A ‘December 30th depth hoar layer’ is a bit misleading. There may have been some surface hoar formation, but the approach to managing that problem should be very different from a depth hoar problem. I read the Niseko Avalanche Information every day and recognize that today’s report calls avalanche danger as HIGH on 900m, South facing slopes. That’s likely confusing for some as I peg it at MODERATE, trending toward LOW. I just want to acknowledge that there is a difference in assessment of the hazard and I take all available information into account in formulating my forecast.

Word is upper gates at Niseko United resorts may be opening as soon as tomorrow. Please remember, if you plan to travel out the resort gates, you are entering uncontrolled avalanche terrain. Low danger does not mean no danger. For the sake of this discussion (rather, lecture) there is no such thing as no avalanche danger when traveling through snow covered mountains. NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER go out the gates without the appropriate safety gear AND knowledge of how to use it… or more importantly how to avoid having to use it.

If there are terms and concepts in this discussion that don’t make sense to you… please sign up for a formal avalanche safety course! While I instruct these back home in the U.S., I do not currently teach them here. So this is not a shameless plug. I genuinely want to see a safer and more educated backcountry community here. If you don’t have the interest or desire to seek that education, then I advise you to stay out of the backcountry, and that includes any terrain accessed through resort gates!! Or… hire a qualified guide to give you a fun and safe experience out there. That might very well be a shameless plug ;)

On that upbeat note, Happy New Years everyone! Let’s make 2019 the best season yet.

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary

Niseko Avalanche Bulletin for Monday, December 31st

Eddie Schoen

Note: this bulletin is published in the pm and effective for the following day. Be alert to differences in the forecast and actual snowfall amounts and weather activity overnight.

Backcountry Avalanche Danger Rating

  • Upper (>1000m): MODERATE

  • Mid (800-1000m): MODERATE

  • Lower (<800m): LOW

Current Avalanche Problems

  • Wind Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small-medium

  • Loose Dry | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small

Comments

Weather is stabilizing a bit more tomorrow. Winds should be decreasing and we should see a brief break in precip (ie, little to no snowfall). This should help to further stabilize any surface instabilities in the recent storm snow. Wind slabs don’t go away so easily, so, remain alert to those. Still in the MODERATE hazard zone for tomorrow, but the trend is toward increasing stability. Looks like we’ll have a pretty nice day to wrap up 2018, with plenty of fresh powder out there to be found!

As a local guide and avalanche professional, I have chosen to share this hazard assessment in the interest of encouraging better information sharing within the local community. This avalanche bulletin is to be used at your own risk and is based on very limited data gathered by myself and other guides working for Japan Powder Connection. Please use this information in addition to other resources and take responsibility for your own actions in the backcountry. Also, please respect and abide by all Niseko Area Rules. This information applies only to backcountry areas accessed externally from area resorts. This information is published the evening before and in effect for the following day.

As always, remember that making good decisions in the backcountry takes years of practice and experience. Having the gear is a small part of the equation. Take an avalanche safety course and hire a properly trained guide so you don’t learn the hard way!

Resources:

Japan Powder Connection - Professional Backcountry Guides and Instructors

Niseko Avalanche Information - Niseko’s avalanche information page. Not a ‘bulletin’ by Western standards, but Shinyasan has been doing this for 20+ years and knows these mountains far better than myself.

Snow-Forecast - Niseko Area Weather Forecast

Niseko Now - Local Weather and Conditions Summary