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: Likely | Size: small-medium
Loose Dry | Likelihood: Possible | Size: small
I finally had a chance to get out and spend a day gathering some snowpack data with no distractions. We woke up to significantly more overnight snowfall than I was expecting. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out the forecast models for the region as this is my first season here. I am yet to find a model that produces reliable snowfall forecasts. Everything I’ve gathered from friends/colleagues is that it doesn’t really exist. Lots of variables affecting snowfall here and a high degree of topographical influence makes it much harder to predict. If you have a snow forecast resource that you find useful, send me a message! You don’t have to worry about me tracking out your secret pow stash, because as today proves, I’m inclined to spend the most epic pow days digging holes instead of skiing ;).
Chit chat aside, we seem to be getting into the more typical Hokkaido winter weather pattern. Light, fluffy, low density storm snow falling from the sky. That snow is proving to be a fantastic medium for us snow sliders. In sheltered areas today it was feeling quite buttery. Mmmm. Up high, near exposed ridgelines, that storm snow is getting highly wind affected. Some spots that have been holding good powder snow all season were skiing a bit more like breakable crust today (I’m just super spoiled already…it’d still be creamy pow by Colorado standards). For real though, noticeable difference from the ultra fluffy stuff this area is known for. On the most exposed areas, the surface snow is full-on wind board. Like skinning over styrofoam. So here’s the thing, when you notice differences in how that snow feels underneath your skis/board/scooter, and if it’s not like skiing through cold air, then it’s a clue that the slope you’re on has been effected by the wind…maybe wind pressed, maybe wind loaded, bottom line is that you now have a firmer and stronger slab of snow on the surface. Depending on what lies beneath that slab, you could have the ingredients for an avalanche. I’ve seen enough test results within recent wind slab layers that I personally would not be skiing anything steep with wind effected snow on it right now. But that’s just me, the guy who’d rather dig holes and look at snow crystals than buckle up and ski the pow.
Tomorrow’s hazard rating is set to MODERATE, but if we wake up to another S.O.D. (surprise overnight dump), treat it more like a CONSIDERABLE hazard day until proven otherwise. In other words, if there’s another 25-30cms (or more) overnight, it’s going to be on the high-end of the MODERATE rating, pushing into CONSIDERABLE.
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