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
Loose Dry | Likelihood: Very Likely | Size: small
Wind Slab | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small-medium
Santa has delivered some early presents! Yes, I still believe ;) . . . Anyways, as expected the actual snowfall totals overnight and throughout the day surpassed what I saw on all the forecast models. Steady snow falling pretty much all day and it’s still falling steadily in Kutchan as of 8:00pm. I was inbounds today and found great pow skiing all day. Yet to see official totals for the day, but its looks like 30-40cm of freshies on the ground today at Hirafu. Higher elevations saw moderate winds with strong gusts … pretty ideal conditions for moving snow around. Managing surface instabilities is still the main concern. Today’s snow came in cold and fluffy, so from what I saw not much storm slab development, but certainly be alert to loose dry avalanches (ie, sluffing) at low and mid elevations. These are not likely to bury a skier or rider, but could be enough to knock you off your feet. Higher up, wind slab formation is likely.
The more complex problem that is popping up on my radar is a persistent slab. I’m taking it off the problem list for tomorrow as the surface problems are far more pertinent and with this week’s storm cycle the observed problem layers are going to be buried deep enough where they are even less likely to be triggered. See yesterday’s bulletin for more of a discussion on it. This problem is unlikely, and my confidence level on it is poor, but I think it’s worth mentioning. If you are skiing steep and unsupported terrain in the backcountry, it’s worth a few extra minutes to dig around and see what kind of layers are lurking under the surface. Make good decisions out there, and enjoy your White Christmas!
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!
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